Russian holidaymakers were left shocked after a donkey was forced to parasail off a beach as part of a sick advertising stunt.
The animal, braying in terror, soared above the southern village of Golubitskaya while crying children below echoed its screams.
The stunt – intended to attract people into parasailing at a private beach club – backfired after police began investigating allegations of animal cruelty.
Eeyore, airborne: The scared donkey flies over the Russian resort of Golubitskaya
The animal eventually landed back on the shoreline in an ‘atrocious manner’ after being dragged through the water at the Sea of Asov resort.
Sunbathers rushed to rescue the frightened donkey and were lucky to stop it from drowning.
‘The donkey screamed and children cried,’ Krasnodar regional police spokeswoman Larisa Tuchkova told the AFP news agency.
‘No-one had the brains to call police.’
Steady: Private beach hold the donkey down as a speedboat pulls the parachute
Donkey gone: Workers let the donkey go as the parachute drags it into the air
Flight of fright: The donkey, which could be heard screaming, soars over the sea
Instead, she said, people reached for their cameras and bombarded a local Cossack newspaper with phone calls.
According to the paper, Taman, the donkey flew so high that children on the beach cried and asked their parents: ‘Why did they tie a doggy to a parachute?’
Its editor, Elena Iovleva, said: ‘The donkey landed in an atrocious manner.
‘It was dragged several metres along the water, after which the animal was pulled out half-alive onto the shore.’
The incident is stunning even for a country where animal cruelty is widespread and came as a shock to the locals, Miss Iovleva said.
She added: ‘This has never happened before.’
The footage of Thursday’s incident has now been aired across Russia’s national TV network.
An Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed that a beach club had given ‘this donkey a parasailing ride in order to attract holidaymakers’ attention to this sort of entertainment.’
Police will now launch a probe and, if the entrepreneurs are found guilty, they could face prosecution for animal cruelty.
The offence carries a maximum punishment of two years in prison.
Russian police last night admitted that the trail has gone cold as they hunt to find the donkey owner, who was responsible for the horrific animal abuse.
'He has done a runner, he has gone into hiding,' said a police spokesman.
Another officer Denis Yegorov said: 'It’s amazing that onlookers didn’t knock his teeth out there and then. But in fact no-one complained, not a single person.
'And this is a problem for the police because without an official complaint from a witness we cannot launch a criminal investigation.
Location: Golubitskaya is a Cossack village on the Sea of Asov, also shown below
'If we find this man right now all we can do is talk to him - and check the donkey is healthy.'
He claimed the shocking video evidence could not be used alone under Russian law to spark an official probe.
But as Russian public opinion was horrified by the footage, there was speculation the FSB - formerly called the KGB - would join the hunt for the donkey owner.
A police source said: 'The man is missing. But we are now very concerned for the donkey.'
'Reports say the animal survived but we need to make sure the creature is all right after his ordeal.'
Last night a Russian animal rights group lodged an official complaint demanding police action.
'The sadists have shown their know-how,' said Konstantin Sabinin, projects director Vita, an anti-cruelty group.
'It’s an extremely despicable event.' The group said it was a test case for how seriously the Kremlin takes animal cruelty.
Read more: Flying donkey shocks Russian beachgoers after parasailing firm's sick stunt | Mail Online