The claims come from the ex-editor of Vokrug Sveta (Around the World) magazine Masha Gessen, who recently lost her job for refusing to send a reporter to cover Putin’s latest PR stunt of leading endangered cranes on their first flight.

Although perhaps an unreliable witness, having previously published an anti-Putin biography (‘The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin‘), Gessen wrote in Big City Journal, a Moscow gossip and opinion website about a call from the Kremlin. She claims to have spoken to Putin himself, who, whist expressing sympathy that she had been fired from her job, defended his actions saying that his stunts brought worldwide attention to important conservation issues and history.

In a translation via The Daily Telegraph, Putin is said to have admitted “Well, there was overexposure, and I was to blame for that. But I came up with these tigers! 20 countries that are home to tigers also began to do it. And I came up with leopard! Yes, I know the leopard was caught in advance. But the main thing is to draw attention to the problem.”

“It’s like the amphoras. Then they all started shouting that amphorae were planted. Well of course they were planted!” Putin allegedly said, in reference to the large antique vases that originated in ancient Greece, he was seen to recover from the seabed during a dive in 2011. At the time, his spokesman had admitted after the incident that the amphorae had been planted.

Vladamir Putin’s spokesman has since confirmed that the conversation with Gessen took place, but that some details had been missed out. The president is also said to have offered to try and arrange for Gessen to be reinstated in her position as editor of Vokrug Sveta.

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