Vladimir Putin hugs a polar bear

Vladimir Putin hugs a polar bear

And for his next trick

He has put a tiger to sleep, ridden bare-chested on horseback and even saved baby seals from being clubbed to death. Today it was the turn of polar bears to feature in Vladimir Putin’s latest animal adventure.

The action-man Prime Minister was filmed attaching a tracking device to a sedated polar bear and helping scientists to measure and weigh the animal during a visit to the Franz Joseph Land in Russia’s Arctic far north.

Wearing a specially monogrammed red winter jacket, Mr Putin stroked the 230kg (36 stone) bear and shook its paw, saying “Be healthy”, as a commentator for state television told viewers that it could “wake up at any moment”.

Mr Putin, who asserted Russia’s “profound geopolitical interests” in the region during his visit, declared to the camera: “The bear is the master of the Arctic.”