Vladimir Putin is a famous animal enthusiast, having not only stroked a tiger, hugged a polar bear, but also flew in a motorized hang-glider with a flock of endangered Siberian cranes.
This time, the powerful Russian President decided to share his love of animals by giving a three-month-old black terrier puppy to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuela president, as a diplomatic present.
The puppy was given to Chavez through Igor Sechin, a close ally of Putin who is also the CEO of NK Rosneft, Russia’s enormous state oil company.
“I conveyed a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin – this is a black Russian terrier, it is three months old,” he said to reporters.
Chavez expressed to Sechin his ample gratitude over the gift and has named the canine “Russian.”
“We’re training him, [he’s a] a good dog and beautiful,” Chavez said during a meeting with the Russian delegation at the presidential palace. He joked that perhaps he should give Putin an animal from Venezuela in return, suggesting that a capybara, the largest rodent in the world, might help him win Putin’s heart.
Sechin’s role in the transaction is quite symbolic given the nature of friendship between these two authoritarian states.
Sechin and Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan oil minister, signed eight new agreements on Thursday that will increase cooperation and mutual investment in the oil industry for both states.
Among other projects, Russia has begun a joint-venture with Venezuela that will begin extracting oil from a rich deposit in eastern Venezuela -- a project which is expected to attract about $20 million of investment, according to Ramirez.
In addition, Russia is also participating in at least two projects along the Orinoco Oil Belt, where the U.S. Geological Survey estimated contains 513 million barrels of recoverable oil.
Russia also promised to loan $1.5 billion to help Venezuela pay for the initial phase of investments in the “Carabobo2” oil project – another crude excavation project signed between Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company, and Rosneft.
The Carabobo2 block is believed to contain a total of 6.5 billion metric tons of crude oil. It is speculated that once begun, the commercial oil production at the bloc will reach 400,000 barrels per day.
Other smaller Russian oil companies have also formed a consortium to develop another block on the Orinoco belt in Venezuela.
“For the first time, the Russian (oil) industry began joint production of crude in Latin America,” Sechin said to reporters. “Today we’re showing the entire world that Russia and Venezuela are capable of carrying out big projects that make a significant contribution to the global economy.”
Regarding the dog, despite its innocent appearance, the Russian black terrier has a grim history.
In Russia, it is also known by many as “Stalin’s dog,” since it was first bred to be a fierce guard and police dog in mind. Many Russian black terriers worked as service dogs in the army in World War II.
Nevertheless, this is not the first time that the Russian President exchange pets with leaders from other nations.
Earlier this year, Putin has also received an Akita puppy from Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, and returned the present with a Siberian cat.
Owning at least one Labrador, one Bulgarian sheepdog and a young Akita puppy, along with a miniature horse back at his home on the edge of Moscow, Putin now seems to be channeling his love for animals towards diplomatic use
To contact the editor, e-mail: