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Ukraine Stray Dogs Debate: Country Calls For End To Killings

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KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has called for an end to the killing of stray dogs ahead of the Euro 2012 soccer championship next summer, bending to pressure from Western critics.

The Environment Ministry said Thursday it has urged all the country's mayors to stop euthanizing dogs ahead of the June soccer matches and build animal shelters instead.

Thousands of stray dogs have been killed in Ukraine over the past year, often poisoned or injected with illegal substances, in an apparent effort to clean city streets of strays ahead of the prestigious sports event. That has caused outrage from local and international animal protection groups.

The ministry's statement followed a meeting with representatives of Naturewatch, a British-based group that had actively campaigned against animal cruelty in Ukraine.

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