Russia will open animal shelters after a parliamentarian complained strays were being killed in mass purges ahead of the World Cup this summer.
At a meeting with the heads of the 11 regions that will host matches, deputy PM Vitaly Mutko ordered them to organise temporary shelters for animals captured near World Cup venues. Some 2 million stray animals are loose in World Cup host cities, the parliamentary newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Last month, Vladimir Burmatov, head of the environmental protection committee, called on sport minister Pavel Kolobkov in a letter to stop the “mass destruction of unsupervised animals” in host cities and find a humane solution.
Many citizens and activists had complained that stray animals were being shot or euthanised, he told the parliamentary newspaper.
“These worrying signs should stop,” Mr Burmatov said. “It’s an question of our country’s reputation. Because we are not so savage as to kill animals on the street en masse, throw their bloody carcasses in vehicles and drive around the city.”
More than 90,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling on Mr Putin, Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov and FIFA president Gianni Infantino to stop the widespread killing of dogs in Volgograd, where England will play its first World Cup match against Tunisia on 18 June.
“They deserve to remain among the living. Side by side with people, they defended the city of Stalingrad during the Great Patriotic War!” it said, referring to the city’s Soviet name.
Olga Korzinina, an activist with the animal rights group A Dog’s Life, told The Telegraph she was skeptical the authorities would stop killing stray animals, which are mostly dogs. She said her group was planning to call for a boycott of the World Cup.
“A terrible purge is beginning,” Ms Korzinina said.
Since Russia has a severe shortage of animal shelters, local authorities have in the past dealt with strays by putting out poison or killing them, she claimed.
“They shoot tranquillisers that immobilize the dog, and then it dies of suffocation within 15 minutes,” she said.