Russian dogs claim diplomatic immunity

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The Independent Online
TWO ALSATIANS accused of savaging sheep in rural Kent have claimed diplomatic immunity to stave off farmers who want them destroyed.

The pair of guard dogs belonging to the Russian Embassy's dacha, or country retreat in Hawkhurst, Kent, are said to be behind a string of 200 attacks on local sheep which have so far left more than 50 ewes dead. When local farmers mounted guard on local flocks, they claimed they spotted and tracked the animals back to their lair - the Russian Embassy's 30 acre estate.

But attempts by police, vets and farmers to apprehend the suspect animals have failed because Russian officials say the animals are on Russian soil and are therefore accorded diplomatic status.

Embassy press officer Vladimir Andreyev insisted the Russians were "peaceful neighbours" and the dogs were "very nice". He said: "The estate is our property and everything there is covered by diplomatic immunity according to the International Convention so yes the dogs have immunity."

Farmer Graham Browne said: "They have got diplomatic immunity, the police can't kill these animals because they are part of the diplomatic estate. The attacks have devastated my next year's income but it's more than that. Sheep have feelings, they don't want to be chased, harassed and scared."