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A British tabloid reports a caged, "sad-eyed, starving" bear in the small northern Azerbaijan town of Gabala (Qabala), has died after being forced to drink cola and eat leftover sandwiches.

The newspaper has a pretty depressing video on its website. In it, someone off camera laughs as the bear twice grabs a bottle of Coke in its two paws, glupping down the cola, before rounding forward, as if exhausted. The laughter continues until the camera cuts out.

Apparently a few days after the video was shot, the bear died and was replaced by another. The owner of the cafe where the bear was being kept told "The Sun," "We just catch a new one up in the mountains."

The incident was first reported by Daryl Willard, coach for the local Qabala FC soccer team, who happened to stop by the cafe where the bear was caged.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has said that the video is a disgrace. The Azerbaijan Embassy in London says that the incident is "isolated."

Apparently, since the article and video were posted on November 2, residents of Qabala worry the incident has brought shame on their city.

The story is reminiscent of the case of the donkey that was strapped to a parachute and dragged behind a boat in a parasailing-PR stunt orchestrated by some Russian businessmen at a beach on the Sea of Azov in Russia's Krasnodar region this past July.

Following mass web-outrage, the donkey was eventually bought by "The Sun" and transported to London. Charges against the businessmen were quickly dropped, then reopened due to a letter from animal rights activist Bridget Bardot, then dropped again in August.

-- Ashley Cleek

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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