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Putin's spokesman jokes that he scared bears away on camping trip

Bears came close to a camp where Vladimir Putin was sleeping on a recent trip to Siberia - but stayed well clear when they realised it was the Russian president, his top aide has joked.

Dmitry Peskov made the comment while being interviewed about Putin's recent camping adventures in Russia's vast eastern region which was designed to bolster his strongman image after the recent elections. 

In footage from the trip, Putin can be heard talking with his head of security who says 'one or two' bears got close to camp in the night.

Asked about the clip on Russian TV, insisted security had been adequate - before joking: 'Plus, the bear could see it was Putin himself.' 

Bears managed to get close to the camp where Russian president Vladimir Putin was sleeping during his recent trip to Siberia, new footage has revealed

At least one bear came near the camp, likely by the smell of a fish that Putin claimed to have caught being cooked (file image, a bear photographed in the area before camp was set up)

It was the director of the Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve, Gennnady Kiselov, who first told Putin how close he had come to a dangerous encounter with a bear.

'This is your camp - and this is where the bear was,' Kiselov said, pointing a short distance away.

He explained that the bear had likely been attracted by the smell of cooking food when a pike that Putin claimed to have caught was cooked for dinner overnight.  

'How many bears are here,' Putin can be seen asking him in another section of the footage.

'Hard to calculate,' Kiselov replies, before adding: 'About 600.'

'A lot,' Putin replies.

Kiserlov also showed Putin a video with a pack of wolves in wild territory on the edge of three Siberia regions - Krasnoyarsk, Khakassia and Tuva.

'Look how well-fed they are,' said the national park director. 'Wagging their tails, they are happy here, there is enough food.'

Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, joked that the bears didn't get close to the camp because they noticed it was the President and chose to stay away

The Kremlin delayed release of the footage on Putin's camping trip for two-and-a-half weeks amid suggestions of a ploy to counter fresh health rumours about the strongman, 69 next month.

Officially, Putin is currently 'self-isolating' due to a Covid-19 'outbreak' in his entourage.

But doubts have been expressed about the virus penetrating huge security that was known to be in place around him.

One Putin health-watcher, political analyst Valery Solovei, claimed last week on Echo Moscow radio that the Russian president 'needs to undergo surgery'.

'Either he has already had it done, or he will tonight,' he said.

Yet Putin was seen on TV talking by videoconference to parliamentary party leaders on Saturday, and he is due to host more meetings today of his security council and a session with pro-Kremlin United Russia party, suggesting he is working normally and evidently in robust health.

Solovei and a Telegram channel linked to him and an unnamed disaffected former Lt-General with reported connections in the Kremlin elite have previously alleged that Putin has a major health problem that has been hidden from Russians.

Putin went on the camping trip for 'a few days' in early September, the Kremlin said as it published images of the trip over the weekend

The images were released as the Kremlin tries to dispel rumours about Putin's health after several of his entourage fell ill with Covid

Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, an observer of ruling circles in Russia claimed that a transition of power is gradually underway although the identity of Putin's successor was not known.

'The plan of the transition is, of course, kept secret,' she was quoted as saying, but there have been other rumours that Putin is identifying his favoured people for the succession.

One is certainly seen as Shoigu, 66, a frequent vacation companion and the man who led a huge massing of Russian forces on the border of Ukraine earlier this year, is seen on the videos being comfortable in Putin's presence.

Another possible successor, former Putin bodyguard Yevgeny Zinichev, 55, the Kremlin's emergencies minister, was killed in a mysterious incident in the Arctic earlier this month when he 'fell off a cliff seeking to rescue a man'.

The Kremlin has repeatedly and strongly denied as 'complete nonsense' claims from the channel SVR General that Putin is suffering from either early stage Parkinson's Disease or abdominal cancer.

The channel claimed that Putin is undergoing treatment this month and that the Covid-19 breakout report is likely a smokescreen.

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