Despite media coverage
at home and abroad, and even an official moratorium
by the Environment Ministry, animal-rights activists in Ukraine say that a systematic culling of stray animals
continues ahead of the Euro 2012 soccer championships this summer.
On March 31, more than 300 protesters marched through central Kyiv
brandishing signs reading "Football does not need blood" and "Yes to sterilization, no to murder."
They accuse local authorities of using inhumane, even illegal methods such as poisoning to reduce the country's large population of stray animals ahead of the European soccer finals to be co-hosted with Poland this summer.
They have been joined by European celebrities such as German Princess Maja von Hohenzollern
, who campaigns for animal welfare, and even players on Germany's national soccer team
Activists have demanded that President Viktor Yanukovych impose a country-wide ban on the killing of stray animals, which they say continues on a local level despite the official moratorium.
This despite donations from other European countries of mobile sterilization vehicles
for use and a Kyiv plan
to find homes for strays.
Tamara Tarnawska, head of the SOS International Animal Protection Society, says that according to official sources, 4,000 dogs were sterilized in Kyiv in 2011. But she's sure that more than 2,000 of them were poisoned afterward anyway
Local authorities are not interested in dealing with Ukraine's large population of stray animals in a humane fashion, Tarnawska says. It would take decades to resolve the problem because "society is sick and doesn't have a humane upbringing," she adds.