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Activists say stray cats starve to death in sealed basements in Belarus

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    A stray cat seen through a hole in an iron panel covering a basement window in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. Municipal authorities in Belarus are walling up stray cats in basements in compliance with Soviet-era regulations, dooming them to death of hunger. Belarus doesn't have shelters for stray animals. Municipal authorities said they wall up doors to basements in line with sanitary norms introduced in 1990, when Belarus was still part of the USSR. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (The Associated Press)

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    Antonina Gayenko feeds cats outside an apartment building in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. Municipal authorities in Belarus have walled up stray cats in basements in compliance with Soviet-era regulations, dooming them to death of hunger. But some residents made holes for cats to escape. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (The Associated Press)

  • cab55a213c468d04280f6a706700de78.jpg

    Antonina Gayenko feeds cats through holes in an iron panel covering a basement window in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. Municipal authorities in Belarus are walling up stray cats in basements in compliance with Soviet-era regulations, dooming them to death of hunger. Belarus doesn't have shelters for stray animals. Municipal authorities said they wall up doors to basements in line with sanitary norms introduced in 1990, when Belarus was still part of the USSR. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (The Associated Press)

  • c917bdd63c518d04280f6a706700fb55.jpg

    Stray cats stand outside an apartment building in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 after being fed by residents. Municipal authorities in Belarus have walled up stray cats in basements in compliance with Soviet-era regulations, dooming them to death of hunger. But some residents made holes for cats to escape. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (The Associated Press)

  • a38e7ce33c518d04280f6a70670067b1.jpg

    A stray cat walks outside an apartment building with an iron panel covering a basement window in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. Municipal authorities in Belarus have walled up stray cats in basements in compliance with Soviet-era regulations, dooming them to death of hunger. But some residents made holes for cats to escape. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (The Associated Press)

Animal rights activists say city authorities in the Belarusian capital of Minsk are demanding locks on apartment basements, a move that often traps stray cats and dooms them to die of hunger.

Elena Titova, leader of the animal rights group Protect Life, said the former Soviet nation has no shelters to house stray animals. She estimated that about 9,000 stray cats and dogs have been killed in the Belarusian capital alone over the past three years.

Municipal authorities say they must isolate basements in line with Soviet-era health rules to prevent rodents from getting into the buildings.

Some residents have tried to rescue the cats, making holes to let them escape from the basements.