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Russia's Putin Admits Wildlife Stunts Are Staged

Then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) secures a GPS-Argos satellite transmitter onto a tiger during his visit to the Ussuriysky forest reserve in 2008.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that some of his most famous media adventures with wildlife were staged.

Russian television has shown videos of Putin tagging whales, saving a TV crew from a tiger, and taking to the skies to help Siberian cranes learn to migrate.

In a meeting with Masha Gessen, an editor who lost her job for refusing to send reporters to cover last week’s crane flight, Putin conceded: "Of course, there are excesses. And I'm annoyed about it."

In an account of the meeting in "Bolshoi gorod" magazine, Gessen also quoted Putin as saying the wildlife encounters were worthwhile because they drew the public's attention to animals under threat.

Gessen edited a travel magazine until she was dismissed. She is also the author of "The Man Without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin," a book highly critical of the president.

Gessen said Putin, alongside the magazine's owner, had asked her whether she wanted to have her job back or whether she was comfortable in the role of "persecuted journalist."

Gessen refused the offer to have her job back, saying she did not want to work in a magazine where the editor in chief is appointed by the president.

The Reuters news agency quoted Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying the report represented "a correct account of the meeting except for some insignificant details."

Based on reporting by Reuters and BBC