The Sochi Network

Leopard bites media members during Vladimir Putin photoshoot

Vladimir Putin, who has been at the centre of criticism as the Olympics draw near, has spent some time showing the world Russia’s softer side.

Putin climbed into a cage of endangered Persian leopards, which were born last summer while the city of Sochi was preparing for the Olympic Games.

"We've decided to restore the population of the Persian leopard because of the Olympic Games," Putin told a group of media members, some of whom were attacked by the leopards.

According to reports, one media member was scratched on the hand and another was bitten on the knee. But that didn’t take away from the cute and cuddly photo-op Putin tried to create ahead of addressing the IOC.

"Let's say that because of the Olympic Games, we have restored parts of the destroyed nature," Putin said.

What wasn’t seen was the masses of euthanized stray dogs or the poverty stricken areas that have been hidden from view while the Russians attempt to put on a good face.

Putin, who is the face of the most expensive Olympics in history, used Tuesday’s platform to show the environmental consciousness of the Sochi Games. The hope is to release some of the leopards into southern Russia next year where the animal had been extinct since 1970.

Graham Watson, Yahoo! Sports