Russian beachgoers got a shock when they saw a donkey soaring in the blue skies over the balmy beaches on the Sea of Azov in southern Russia last week, police said on Tuesday.
Attached to a parachute, the animal screamed in fear as it circled over heads of holidaymakers sunbathing on a beach in the Cossack village of Golubitskaya in the Krasnodar region.
A regional police spokesperson said the donkey ended up in the skies as a result of an impromptu advertising campaign by several Russian entrepreneurs to attract beachgoers to their private beach.
Instead, they attracted the attention of regional police who learned of the flying donkey earlier this week and launched a probe.
"The donkey screamed and children cried," regional police spokesperson Larisa Tuchkova told AFP. "No-one had the brains to call police."
Instead, she said, people reached for their cameras and bombarded a local newspaper with phone calls.
"It was put up so high into the sky that the children on the beach cried and asked their parents: "Why did they tie a doggy to a parachute?" the newspaper, Taman, said late last week.
"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, said Taman newspaper's editor, Elena Iovleva.
"This has never happened before," she told AFP.
The footage of the parachuting donkey was aired on national television on Tuesday.