Sochi - A PR stunt to show off Russian President Vladimir Putin's 'soft' side has backfired miserably when he was snapped cuddling up to an endangered baby cheetah cub that turned out to be a $20 stuffed toy made in China.
The Russian leader was posing for photographers at Sochi National Zoo as part of an official caring for animals publicity drive that's previously seen him ride bareback on snowy white chargers, wrestle bear-chested with Siberian sabre-toothed grizzlies and dance semi-naked the butt-poke conga with royal Brit slag Camilla Fucker-Proles.
This morning pics of Putin fondling the fluffy toy were headline news from Moscow to Bloodyvostock despite TV viewers's suspicions that the animal was a hoax.
Irate viewers even telephoned the Good Morning Russia! breakfast show to complain about a manufacturer's label sewn into the back of the toy's ear which was translated from Mandarin to read: Machine Washable At 40 Degrees.
Tomorrow's planned PR photoshoot of the Russian president arm-wrestling endangered species marsh alligators may now be put on hold.