Ukraine Parrots Perish in Belarus

MINSK -- Veterinarians fearing cases of bird flu have destroyed 275 parrots brought into Belarus illegally by a smuggler on a bicycle, a newspaper reported Friday.

Officials this week initially said the birds, crammed into cages and abandoned by a man after he was confronted by border guards, were to be handed to pet shops after health checks.

But a lack of facilities at the border with Ukraine ultimately proved their undoing.

"By law, we could have left the parrots in quarantine for up to three days. But tests can only be conducted in Minsk," a veterinary service spokesman was quoted by the daily Respublika as saying. "Transporting them and waiting for the result would have taken a week. We decided to take no risks. They were put to sleep and incinerated."

Two birds were found dead after the cages were opened. The smuggler escaped back across the border.