One of Russia's richest men has funded a shelter to rescue Sochi's stray dogs


Stray dogs play in front of the Bolshoy Ice Dome ahead of the Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.


Quinn Rooney

A Russian billionaire who once owned a former stray has come to the aid of Sochi's doomed dogs.

Oleg Deripaska, head of the world's largest aluminum company, has funded a shelter that's saved at least 150 strays from being killed by an extermination company during the Winter Olympics.

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A number of the dogs have found new homes.

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

Sochi initially backed off plans to euthanize the stray dogs that wander its streets following outcry from animal rights groups last year.

But city officials reneged on that decision in the buildup to last week's Winter Olympics opening ceremony, hiring Basia Services to kill off as many of the dogs as possible before foreigners moved in.

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Alexei Sorokin, the owner of the extermination company, called the strays "biological trash" in a phone interview with ABC News, and said they posed a threat to the Winter Games.

Hundreds of the dogs have been killed already, according to The New York Times.

“We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,'" shelter coordinator Olga Melnikova told the newspaper.

News of the killings sparked the hashtag #sochidogs on Facebook, Instagram and other social media and led to calls to boycott Sochi's Olympics.

Here is a video report, via NBC News:

Former strays from around the world showed their solidarity for the #sochidogs campaign: