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Vladimir Putin's Leopard 'Friend' Cuddles Russian Leader, Attacks Reporters (PICTURES)

05/02/2014 12:26 GMT | Updated 05/02/2014 13:59 GMT

A grinning Vladimir Putin has been pictured cuddling an endangered Persian leopard – just after it attacked two journalists.

The animal reportedly liked the Russian president much more than his entourage, scratching one accompanying reporter on the hand and biting another on the knee, Russian media reported.

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State television showed Putin cradling the cub on his knee with the animal now seemingly at ease. "I like animals, it seems I have a feeling for them," said Putin. "We liked each other."

Putin is well known for his meetings with wild animals which he uses to burnish his hardman image. As well as leopards, in the past he has met beasts including a tiger and a polar bear.

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"We made friends," he said, referring the leopard called Grom (Thunder).

Russia is working to reintroduce the Persian leopard to the mountains above the city as part of measures aimed at showing that the Olympic Games will benefit and not hurt the environment.

However environmentalists "scoff" at such claims, saying that the Games have irreversibly damaged once virgin environments by the sea and in the mountains.