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Volunteers smuggle Sochi dogs out of town

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2014 at 10:24 am •  Published: February 11, 2014

A dozen kilometers before the check-point is the closest Igor Airapetian, a softly-spoken retired businessman, can get to Sochi in his SUV with Moscow number plates.

It's three in the morning and the dog activists pull up at a deserted plaza in the town of Tuapse. A smiling Airapetian shakes the driver's hand. Airapetian's friend, Zamir Aslanov, who has been driving the arduous 1,600 kms (1,000 miles) from Moscow, is dizzy with exhaustion. It will now be Airapetian's turn to drive back.

"It was just a coincidence," Airapetian says when asked why he decided to help taking out dogs from Sochi. "I saw that post (in the social media) and decided to help."

Airapetian unloads the back of his car, choked full with dog food and medicines. It's not only the handover of dogs, but an exchange of goods. Airapetian is elated: "My beauties!"

Asked about the future of the dogs, Airapetian comes up with a long list and details of breeders and ordinary people who will be taking the dogs.

The silence in the plaza is broken by the arrival of a three-door red car. A petite blonde gets out of her car. It's all wet noses and tails inside. One of the five dogs she has brought is a Rottweiler.

"People buy bred dogs, play with them and then throw them away," Yulia Krasova, a 30-year-old travel agent, explains.

Sochi is flooded with stray dogs but activists also lament the attitudes of Russians who tend to treat dogs as a toy that can be easily discarded.

"Dogs live on construction sites, workers feed them, give them names," Fillipova says. "Once the construction is over the dogs are left behind."

Two more cars arrive at the plaza at four in the morning. Another woman in a down jacket comes out. Fifteen or so dogs will head back towards Moscow, some of them to be dropped off with new owners on the way.

Igor hopes that the international media attention that Sochi's strays have received could prompt Russian officials across the country to end the cruel treatment of dogs.

Sochi city hall, when asked for comment on dog killings, responded by posting a press release announcing the opening of a dog pound.

"I hope what we've seen here is not going to happen again," Airapetian says.