Sochi Olympic Park’s condemned stray dogs ‘saved by Russian billionaire’

Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s richest men, says he decided to fund a new dog shelter after remembering his own pet dog that was adopted as a stray

Condemned to death at the hands of a private extermination company, around 150 of the stray dogs from Sochi’s Olympic Park have been saved after the intervention of a Russian billionaire.

One of Russia’s richest men, Oleg Deripaska has spoken out for the first time about why he decided to fund a quickly-assembled dog shelter in the hills above the site of Sochi 2014.

“My first dog I found in the street of my village, the tiny village [where I grew up],” Mr Deripaska told the BBC. “It was a very close friend for almost five years.”

Sochi’s city hall had previously dropped plans to “dispose of” more than 2,000 dogs and cats who roamed the Olympic Park building site, fed and affectionately looked after by its workers.

When they moved on, however, the authorities say the hungry animals became homeless pests, and in the build-up to last week’s opening ceremony reneged on their decision to save them.

Following widespread media reports and a Facebook campaign, Mr Deripaska was moved to intervene, and arranged for a team of animal welfare charity workers to recue as many as they could.

Shelter coordinator Olga Melnikova last week told the New York Times: “We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them’.”

Oleg Deripaska, the chief executive of the world's largest aluminium company, was moved to set up a shelter for the strays Oleg Deripaska, the chief executive of the world's largest aluminium company, was moved to set up a shelter for the strays Around 140 of the animals have so far been saved from the cull, and a number have been successfully rehomed.

Many animals could not be saved. Last week, what appeared to be the final straw came when one stray got into the main Olympic stadium during a rehearsal of the opening ceremony.

Alexei Sorokin, the director of the company tasked with “catching and disposing of” the dogs, described the animals as “ biological trash” and said that Sochi has “an epidemic of rabies”.

“I am for the right of people to walk the streets without fear of being attacked by packs of dogs,” he said.

Mr Deripaska was the subject of headlines in the UK in 2008 when he was embroiled in the so-called “yachtgate” scandal between Lord Mandelson and the then-shadow chancellor George Osborne.

The billionaire later said he had considered “severing ties with Britain” after the political row following a party on his yacht, which left the peer denying doing “any favours” for him, and Mr Osborne denying making attempts to solicit a donation to the Conservative Party.

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