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Russian governor denies allegations Spanish king shot tame, drunken bear named Mitrofan

MOSCOW — A Russian provincial governor on Friday denied allegations that Spanish King Juan Carlos had killed a tamed and drunken bear during a trip to his region, saying the monarch had never gone hunting, news reports said.

Provincial governor Vyacheslav Pozgalyov of the Vologda region northeast of Moscow, who had set up a panel to investigate the allegations, was quoted as saying that the king did not fire a single shot on a trip to the region in August.

Juan Carlos had mainly shown interest in the area's cultural sites, he said.

"All rumors and speculation about Spanish King Juan Carlos' alleged hunting in the Vologda Region are ungrounded and untrue," Pozgalyov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

Calls to Pozgalyov's office and other regional officials in Vologda went unanswered late Friday.

"I confirm that King of Spain Juan Carlos I visited our region, but the rest is a concoction. There was no hunting whatsoever," Pozgalyov said, according to Interfax news agency.

Earlier this month, Sergei Starostin, a hunting official in the Vologda region, published a letter in local media claiming the tamed bear, named Mitrofan, had been fed honey mixed with vodka before being released near a site where the king was to be hunting.

"Naturally, a heavy, drunken animal became an easy target. His Highness Juan Carlos took Mitrofan out with one shot," Starostin said in the letter, cited by the Russian business daily Kommersant.

Pozgalyov set up a commission to investigate the allegations.

The Spanish royal palace first pointedly denied that the king, a known hunting enthusiast, had killed a bear — drunk or sober — but edged away from the flat denial a day later.

A palace spokesman said the allegations were ridiculous, but would neither confirm nor deny the king had been hunting during the Russia trip or whether he shot a bear.