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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hunter Chernomyrdin Blasted for Cub Shoot

Two Russian weeklies have questioned the sportsmanship and integrity of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for commandeering bulldozers, helicopters, Volga cars and agents of the Federal Security Service to hunt down a mother bear and her two cubs last month.

The allegations appeared this week in Ogonyok and Novaya Gazeta, which said the hunt resembled a major military operation in fields around the village of Rybinsk in the picturesque Yaroslavl region.

Making things easy for bigwig hunters was a longstanding Soviet-era tradition, but rarely has it caught such attention in the media.

According to the weeklies, the massive chase was launched after a local hunter discovered an occupied bear den and told his superiors. Word reached the governor, who invited Chernomyrdin for a hunt shortly after Russian Orthodox Christmas.

As the bears slept unknowingly, Novaya Gazeta said, bulldozers swept through the forest to clear space for a helicopter landing field, hunters were decked out with new uniforms, and 2 kilometers of road were built through the forest.

Early Jan.12, two helicopters arrived and were joined by a host of Volga cars, bodyguards, professional hunters, police and agents of the Federal Security Service and the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Heeding lessons learned from the hunting misfortunes of previous leaders -- Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev once broke his nose with his hunting rifle -- an ambulance accompanied the party, along with a mobile dining room and kitchen.

Finally, when all had taken their positions, a pack of dogs was sent into the den, the weeklies said, citing accounts from local hunters. Nothing happened. The hunters poked inside the den with poles, finally prompting a cub to emerge.

It was hit in the forehead with a shot fired by the guest of honor, Chernomyrdin. The second cub was killed by the governor. Both fired at the mother, although professional hunters had to finish her off.

A doctor tested the meat before it was divided among members of the Yaroslavl and Moscow entourages in traditional style -- Brezhnev is said to have divided his spoils among favorites on the Politburo -- and one of the cubs was stuffed.

Novaya Gazeta said in a front-page editorial that the government "should be ashamed, before people, before God, before their own consciences," but the high-powered hunters in fact have centuries of tradition preceding them.

The city of Yaroslavl itself was built on the site where Yaroslavl the Wise shot a female bear said to have been worshipped in the 11th century.

Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin was said to have preferred shooting fowl. He spared the prettiest foxes, but reportedly had a penchant for shooting rabbits from boats.

Brezhnev favored boars, which apparently had to be tied to trees so that he could shoot them, and rabbits, which were released by the hundred by bodyguards hiding behind trees.