World Cup 2018

Russia under the spotlight for killing of stray animals

Activists, citizens and policiticians have decried the methods being adopted by local authorities to remove street dogs from World Cup host cities.

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Defensores de los derechos de los animales han denunciado estas matanzas de perros.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Politicians, activists and citizens have called on the Russian authorities to put a stop to the indiscriminate slaughter of stray animals ahead of the World Cup. Several websites and media outlets have highlighted the practice of killing street dogs in host cities for the tournament, often using compressed air shotguns and poison to carry out the task.

A few weeks ago Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitali Mutkó estimated that there are anything up to two million strays on Russian streets and highlighted the need to resolve the problem ahead of the showpiece tournament this summer. However, it seems that in some cities local authorities have taken matters into their own hands.

"Canine KGB death squads"

Animal rights activists hold up posters during a demonstration on April 20.

Western media, particularly the UK tabloids, have accused Russia of deploying “canine KGB death squads” to kill animals – mostly dogs – and several organisations have raised their concerns and launched petitions to pressure the state to take control of the situation unfolding ad hoc under some local authorities.

Change.org has started a petition under the slogan “Bloody Fifa 2018” to call on the Russian government to reassign funds of $1.95 million that they claim has been allotted to host cities to carry out the clean-up towards “creating shelter and support for stray animals.” The petition has garnered almost 1.5 million signatures.

Environmental chief: "Russia's reputation is at stake"

The emergence of this practice has even reached the political level in Russia with the head of the Environmental Protection Committee in Russia’s lower house, Vladímir Burmátov, stating he has sent an official letter to the Minister for Sports Pavel Kolobkov to ask for an immediate halt to the extermination of stray animals, warning that “the reputation of our country is at stake” and adding that Russians “are not savages who carry out mass exterminations of animals in the street, throwing their bleeding bodies into the back of vans.”

With fewer than 100 days to go until the World Cup, the controversy is growing daily. Not only animal rights activists but also Russian citizens have been voicing their objection while the central state authorities have ordered an immediate halt to local governments attempting to find their own solutions to the issue.

Despite Russia’s efforts to set up a system of refuges, food and medical assistance for stray animals, the country still has a long way to go to resolve a problem that is present not only in World Cup host cities but in many other parts of Russia as well.