Courtesy of the Washington Post

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The trial could result in one of the country’s first serious convictions for animal cruelty. It also provides a showcase for a new, more radical animal activism that is gaining popularity in Russia.Dmitry Khudoyarov is on trial at Moscow’s Cheryomushkinsky District Court on charges of killing a dog and permanently disabling a puppy by shooting them from his all-terrain vehicle.He has pleaded guilty and could serve up to six months in jail, a year of community service, or pay a fine of up to 80,000 rubles ($2,580).Activists standing outside the courthouse during a recent hearing wore T-shirts with splattered blood and the slogans, “Prison for the Slaughterer” and “Prison for the Serial Killer.”“Khudoyarov is the disease of our society,” said one protester, Emilia Nadin. “This is really the first case in Russia where people have managed to bring a case to court, and it’s very important for us to create a precedent.”

Fueling their cause is the fact that the country’s courts have handed down few convictions for animal cruelty. In 2007, a guard was convicted of killing a stray dog named Ryzhik who lived in the Konkovo metro station. He received a suspended sentence of two years and eight months.

This year, residents in both the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk and the Oryol region were convicted of killing dogs and received sentences of three months and six months of community service, respectively. A man from Samara was given a suspended sentence of one year and fined 12,000 rubles.

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In 2002, a model deemed by psychiatrists to be psychologically unstable stabbed a stray dog at the Mendeleyevskaya metro station. She was sent to a psychiatric hospital, and shocked Muscovites paid for a statue of the dog to be placed in the station.

The protesters represent a secretive grass-roots organization called Alliance for Animal Rights, which Nadin said she quit her job to join full-time two years ago. She has no office, and activists print up leaflets at home or work, she said.

The group provides a more attractive face for animal rights, Nadin said. “Our position has got better, we appear on television. It used to be they would film crazy woman with unwashed hair, now it’s young people,” she said.

A nebulous organization, the Alliance for Animal Rights has no formal registration, and it is unclear who is in charge.

Its spokesman, Semyon Simonov, answered e-mails from Sochi. He said the group has 500 members and was set up five years ago, initially as a purely Internet-based project, but had been holding rallies since 2005.

There are an increasing number of supporters of radical action in Russia, Simonov said, including supporters of the Animal Liberation Front, a movement of activists who use tactics such as removing animals from cages and damaging property of targets.

“In Russia there are supporters of the Animal Liberation Front and their numbers are growing, since there is more deprivation of animal rights in our country than in many others,” Simonov said.

He listed the lack of a law on animal rights and public monitoring of laboratories, farms and slaughterhouses.

“It’s obvious that if the situation doesn’t change, many people will turn to direct action,” Simonov said.

“It’s obvious that if the situation doesn’t change, many people will turn to direct action,” Simonov said.

In June 2008, American activist Steven Best lectured at universities and community centers, interviewed with various mass media, conducted a press conference, and led demonstrations during a two-week animal liberation speaking tour of Russia.

Best, who teaches philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso, is a controversial figure. He co-founded a media information center for the Animal Liberation Front in the United States. He was banned from visiting Britain in 2005 under anti-terrorist legislation after telling a conference, “We will break the law and destroy property until we win.”

“The Moscow animal rights community is one of the most active and dedicated I know,” Best said in an e-mail.

“Activists tend to be young students and workers,” he said. “Many activists are anarchists and anti-fascist and understand the connections between animal liberation and human liberation.”

Animal rights protesters aren’t yet seen as a threat by the authorities, Best said. He was “able to speak freely” in Russia, he said, although he was told that plainclothes police officers attended some of his talks.
Russia Now

Animal Rights Festival “Voices for Animals” took place in four Russian cities

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