Putin holds a Persian leopard during his visit to the Persian Leopard Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre in the Sochi national park near Sochi
Putin holds a Persian leopard during his visit to the Persian Leopard Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre in the Sochi national park near SochiReuters

Russian president Vladimir Putin intervened to calm a six-month leopard who attacked journalists in the Sochi region during a meeting with senior members of the IOC, according to reports.

State television showed Putin caressing the big cat, called Grom (Thunder), on his knee after it lashed out at journalists.

"I like animals, it seems I have a feeling for them," said Putin, who has been pictured with wild animals before. "We liked each other."

The meeting with Jean Claude Killy, the French skiing champion who has been the IOC man for Sochi and IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli was part of Putin's attempt to show the games are good for the environment.

Putin took the IOC members in his own jeep to a nature reserve above Sochi.

Russia is trying to reintroduce the Persian leopard to the mountains above the city to demonstrate the world that the Winter Olympic Games are not hurting the environment.

"The ecological situation has improved many times over," said Putin. "According to some estimates, it has improved by a factor of four."

"There are questions which always crop up during such huge construction but in general the situation has not worsened but improved."

However, Grom did not like the large group of guests and attacked two journalists. One of them was scratched on the hand and one lightly bitten in the knee, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

According to state television, Putin entered the cage to soothe the animal after the media left. The animal seemed at ease in Putin's arms.

The Russian president has attempted to soften his macho image by meeting wild animals over the years such as a tiger and a polar bear and showing a cuddly part of himself.

The leopards are living in Sochi National Park in between seaside Sochi and the Alpine venues in the towering Caucasus Mountains.

Some of the new leopard population is to be released next year in hopes of repopulating southern Russia, where they became extinct in the 1970.