“Of course, there are excesses!” Putin interrupted me cheerily. “And I have taken people to task for that. But it is so much more important that I draw attention to the issues! Sure, the leopard had been sedated,’’ he said (I’d said nothing about a leopard). ‘‘But what’s important is that I was the one who came up with the whole leopards project! And the tigers. After I did that, 20 other countries that have tigers also started working on the problem. Sure, there are excesses,” he repeated. “Like that time I dove for the amphorae.”

I could not believe he was the one drawing the analogy to the amphora fiasco. About a year ago, Putin posed for the cameras emerging from the bottom of the Black Sea bearing two ancient amphorae–which, it soon emerged, had been planted there for him to find.

“So then everyone started writing that the amphorae had been planted. Of course they were planted! I wasn’t diving to be able to blow my gills wide.”

Moments of Putin.

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