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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it had banned the hunting of baby seals, weeks after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a "bloody industry."
"The bloody sight of the hunting of seals, the slaughter of these defenseless animals which you cannot even call a real hunt, is banned in our country, just as well as in most developed countries, and is a serious step to protect the biodiversity of the Russian Federation," the minister for natural resources, Yuri Trutnev, said in a statement.
Seals inhabit Russia's White Sea region in the Arctic. Hunters target the fluffy baby seals -- also known as "whitecoats" for their highly valued snow-white fur -- in early spring.
Canadian legislation bans the hunting of baby seals with white coats, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a government department.
Protests urging a halt to hunting of baby seals took place in 20 cities and towns across Russia this week. On February 27, state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta quoted Putin as saying: "This is a bloody business and it's clear that it needs to be stopped." He said hunters should be compensated for lost earnings.
Writing by James Kilner, editing by Dominic Evans