Police began an investigation after a woman was mauled by a circus lion outside the tent in Russia.

The woman, identified as 25-year-old Alyona, had visited the circus along with her four-year-old daughter. During an act, the woman left her daughter to watch the show and stepped outside the tent for a smoke. While wandering close to the lion’s cage, the animal attacked her through the bars, leaving her with severe injuries to the head. The exact date of the incident was not known.

Recalling the incident, the woman said, “I went a little to the side of the tent entrance. I didn't even see cages there. Then I saw a shaggy paw in front of my face. I felt a blow. I was stunned."

Alyona said the lion tried to pull her into the cage. However, she lost her consciousness and when she regained it, she was wrapped in bandages. She said an animal trainer rescued her by firing a water spray at the animal after which it let go of her. Alyona added that the circus employees pleaded her to not report the incident to police and also assured the animal did not have rabies.

“The circus workers asked me not to contact the police. They promised to pay for my treatment, to provide any help,” she said.

However, the staff allegedly vanished without helping her.

“Look at my face. I almost lost my eye. Thank you to the doctors who saved it. My cheek is torn. I now need plastic surgery. Who will pay for it?" Alyona asked.

The circus director, Valery Zhilin, however, rejected Alyona’s claims and said the woman was drunk and was wandering in a restricted area when she was attacked by the lion.

"It was fenced and had a sign saying 'Caution, predators'," he said, adding that the staff visited the woman at the hospital every day.

This is a representational image of a lion at his enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington on Dec. 18, 2010. Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm