OLY-2014-RUS-RUSSIA-PUTIN-POLITICS

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin caresses a Persian leopard cub as he visits the Persian leopard breeding and rehabilitation centre in the National Park in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. A leopard was announced in 2011 to be one of the official mascots of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Perhaps the most important vote in Russia’s public selection of a new Olympic mascot was cast when Vladimir Putin said he wanted a funky leopard to represent the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL / ALEXEI NIKOLSKY