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 country, a former part of the Soviet Union, has no shelters to house stray animals. 

Titova estimated that about 9,000 stray cats and dogs have been killed in the Belarusian capital alone over the past three years as the city walls up basements.

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.