Scottish Conservative Euro MP and longtime animal welfare campaigner Struan Stevenson has hit out against the “breath-taking” hypocrisy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that while the strongman portrays himself as an animal lover, he is turning a blind eye to a brutal cull of thousands of stray dogs in Sochi on the eve of the Winter Olympics.
The Russian leader has attempted to stress the environmental credentials of the Games and recently posed with a Persian Leopard cub at Sochi National Park to highlight these efforts. Anatoly Pakhomov, mayor of Sochi and member of Putin’s United Russia party, had previously promised to capture, sterilise and care for the local stray animals, allocating significant sums of money for the acquisition of land on which a dog shelter could be constructed.
However, the shelter was never built and the mayor instead advertised for a company prepared to shoot or poison the animals. No company from Sochi responded to the call for tenders, forcing the mayor to bring in a company reportedly called BASIA from the city of Rostov. Teams from that company have been engaged in shooting thousands of dogs with poisoned darts, causing outrage from animal lovers throughout Russia and worldwide.
Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Stevenson, who spearheaded a campaign to end the barbaric trade in cat and dog fur in the European Union, said:
“Putin has spent over $50 billion in Sochi, making this by far the most expensive Winter Olympics ever. It is a tragedy that some of that money could not have been used for the sterilisation and re-homing of Sochi's stray dog population. The massacre of these animals stains the snow of Sochi with blood before the games get underway.
“Posing with a leopard cub will not distract the world from Putin’s breath-taking duplicity and culpability in this massacre of helpless animals. If the Kremlin is genuinely trying to forge closer ties with Europe, they should bear in mind the importance of our animal welfare policies enshrined within the Lisbon Treaty.”