Ukraine's Environment Minister promised yesterday to free all bears kept in restaurants for entertainment purposes and often forced to drink alcohol.
Captured and tamed bears were used for entertainment in the Russian Empire, which included Ukraine, turning the animal into a national symbol.
The practice appears to have survived Ukraine's emergence from Soviet rule, but the minister, Mykola Zlochevsky, said it was inhumane and unacceptable today.
"On television, they keep showing bears suffering in restaurants and roadside hotels," he told Interfax news agency. "How long can we tolerate animal torture in restaurants where drunken guests make bears drink vodka for laughs?"
The ministry is planning an enclosure at a wildlife sanctuary to house about 80 bears.