Russia hopes 'Putin koala' still alive

4th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Russia expressed hope Wednesday that a koala cuddled by President Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit was alive and well after Australia said it had killed off nearly 700 of the animals.

Putin joined other world leaders in posing for photographs with the much-loved Australian creature at the talks in November, a lighthearted moment in a meeting overshadowed by Russia's confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

"We are hoping that the animals the G20 leaders were photographed with during a summit in Brisbane were not among those that were euthanised," the Russian embassy in Australia said on Facebook.

Australian veterinarians have put down 686 koalas suffering from starvation due to overpopulation in southeastern Australia, sparking claims of mismanagement.

Pictures of Putin hugging a koala from a local wildlife park went viral online, unleashing ridicule of the strongman.

One wit joked that the koala would be awarded a top government post and become part of the "first koalition government" under Putin.

"There is a false impression that at the G20 summit Vladimir Putin conducted a meeting only with a koala," another popular Twitter account said at the time.

"This is not true. There were also two kangaroos."

Putin got a frosty reception in Brisbane and left the summit early under the pretext that he needed to get some sleep.

The tough-guy leader is known for his love of the outdoors and has often been pictured with animals, from fluffy puppies to cows, dolphins and even a tiger cub, as shown in a Tumblr blog dedicated to images of Putin and animals.

© 2015 AFP

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