Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony
A dog frolics in the street in central Sochi months ahead of Winter OlympicsReuters file photo

In the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014, hundreds of stray dogs have been culled by the organisers of the games, locals and animal rights groups allege.

Scores of rights activists have descended on the city in the past several months to save strays from being killed at the hands of a government-backed pest control firm.

Locals say the Olympics organisers, with the approval of the Russian government, hired a pest control firm to quietly cull stray animals to stop them from disrupting the games.

According to some Sochi residents, cited by Radio Free Europe/Radio Library, the dogs captured by the authorities have been "savagely beaten, gunned down, or left to die in agony after being shot with poisoned darts".

Activists from as far as Moscow, nearly 1,600 km from Sochi, have come to the Olympics city to rescue dogs.

"The Olympics have always been a symbol of peace, wars have been halted for the duration of the Olympics. But in Russia, the Olympics are built on blood," said activist Igor Airapetyan who has rescued nearly a dozen homeless dogs from the Sochi streets.

Journalists who have recently descended on the southern Russian city have also tweeted stray dogs occupying their designated hotel rooms.

A year ago, local authorities are said to have openly announced the culling measures but withdrew the notice after a public outcry.

Critics have said that the government's pledge to build temporary shelters for dogs is ineffective.

"Culling dogs in Sochi is quite simply the wrong thing to do. It is ineffective and inhumane and makes a mockery of the Sochi claim to be an Olympic event 'In Harmony with Nature'," said the International Fund for Animal Welfare in a statement.

The firm Basya Services, which is tasked with getting rid of stray dogs, has denied killing any of the animals and accused the activists of mudslinging.

"All I can say is this is all insinuations, nonsense, and speculation. It's a theatre of the absurd in which the aura of a villain has been created around me," said the director of the company, Aleksei Sorokin.

A video posted by activist Igor Airapetyan, rescuing stray dogs in Sochi.