(OP-ED/ANIMAL WELFARE) UKRAINE — At the center of the current crisis in Crimea stands Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The former KGB man is no stranger to conflict and controversy in the foreign policy arena, and it should come as no surprise that he is certainly no friend to animals either—though his PR campaigns attempt to say otherwise.

From attempting to lead a flock of endangered Siberian cranes, to his unwarranted dislike of small dogs, here are some reasons President Putin was inducted into our Animal Cruelty Hall of Shame.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strokes a tiger cub at his Novo Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow October 9, 2008. The two-and-a-half month old female tiger was presented to Putin on his birthday and will soon resettle to a zoo, Russian media reported. Picture taken October 9, 2008.  Photo: REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool (RUSSIA)
Russian President Vladimir Putin strokes a tiger cub.
Photo Credit: Reuters/RIA Novosti/Pool

Putin Leads the Flock

In September 2012, Putin led a flock of endangered Siberian cranes on a flying expedition to help guide young cranes on their migration route to central Asia. Even if the stunt was undertaken with his best intentions—having a focus on species protection—the results were less than ideal.

Only two of the five birds to actually follow Putin were able to keep up with the aircraft, which ultimately left the two birds dead. Considering there are only 20 Siberian cranes remaining in the region, Putin’s attempt was clearly a failure.

Putin vs. Small Dogs

When Putin paid a visit to President George W. Bush at U.S. presidential retreat Camp David, he was introduced to Bush’s Scottish Terrier Barney. When Bush repaid the visit, he was introduced to Putin’s much larger dog, Koni.

Bush writes in his memoir, “A big black Labrador came charging across the lawn. With a twinkle in his eye, Vladimir said, ‘Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney,'”—suggesting his dog could devour Barney with little effort.

Unsurprisingly, the breed-discriminating president isn’t a fan of small dogs. Apparently Putin’s “mine is bigger than yours” rivalry even extends to pets.

Putin vs. Wild

From walking Siberian rivers shirtless to being photographed hunting live animals, Putin has certainly cultivated an image of the modern-day “macho man.” However, these publicity stunts often cause unnecessary harm to wildlife.

In 2011, Putin was photographed alongside a rare snow leopard in Siberia, which was later found to be seized from a nature reserve 160 km away. The leopard was held in captivity for a week and was eventually returned, but not without suffering facial injuries.

In yet another media opportunity to improve his tough guy image and self-proclaimed love of animals, a captive tiger was transported to the scene just so Putin could be photographed shooting the poor animal with a tranquilizer gun.

Let’s face it, Putin is just another ‘macho’ man using animals as props for elaborately staged PR campaigns (see below).

Ghengis Putin: A shirtless President Putin rides a horse in the Russian wilderness. Photo Credit: Reuters/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin
Putin stares down a chick at Russia's Exhibition Center in Moscow Photo Credit: Reuters/RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin/Pool (RUSSIA)
Tigerman: Putin installing a tracking device on a tiger which was later found to be a docile zoo animal. Photo Credit: Reuters
Mother Putin: Putin feeding elks. Photo Credit: Reuters/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin
President Putin puts a tracking device on a beluga whale. Photo Credit: Reuters/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Alexei Nikolsky
I Am the Walrus: Putin shakes on it with a walrus at the Primorsky Aquarium. Photo Credit: Reuters
President Putin firing a dart at a gray whale. Photo Credit: Reuters/Ria Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin

— Israel Igualate, exclusive to Global Animal