Ukraine has called for an end to the killing of stray dogs ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships next summer, bending to pressure from Western critics.
The Environment Ministry has urged all the country's mayors to stop putting down dogs ahead of the June event 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 tournament.
That has outraged 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.
"This is a fantastic victory for Ukraine, its citizens and its animals," said John Ruane, head of Naturewatch.
However, it remained unclear how the killing ban would be enforced. Ukraine has a large stray dog population, often numbering tens of thousands in big cities, and building shelters to house them would take months.
A ministry spokesman said the government would work on adopting legal and other changes to make the moratorium on killing legally binding across the country and said that mayors who disobey would face punishment.
The ministry also intends to help manage and finance construction of shelters.
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