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Ukrainian Zookeepers Shot Dead While Feeding Animals

Ukrainian Zookeepers Shot Dead While Feeding Animals

Russian troops have been accused of shooting dead two Ukrainian zookeepers who stayed behind to look after the animals.

Russian troops have been accused of shooting dead two Ukrainian zookeepers who stayed behind to look after the animals.

Alexander Feldman, owner of Kharkiv's Feldman Ecopark, has claimed that 42-year-old Oleksandr Drach and 49-year-old Oleksandr Kovalevsky were shot dead by Russian soldiers as they were feeding the animals.

The pair had been missing for more than a month before their bodies were discovered by Ukrainian troops.

Their bodies were found 'barricaded' in a back room in the park.

Feldman explained how the 'wonderful and courageous' men had stayed behind in the north of the province despite being in the direct path of advancing Russian troops because they didn't want to abandon the animals.

Feldman told Metro: "Our employees were shot dead by Russian soldiers. They were found in the back room. One had half a bucket of carrots in his hands, the other had a bucket of dog food.

"They held the positions of keepers. After the outbreak of the war, they were among the few who did not leave the animals they looked after."

The park has been left in ruins because of the Russian attacks, with animals such as lions, cheetahs and monkeys only having been saved by volunteers and workers who have risked their lives by staying behind.

According to Feldman, the park – which lies 40 miles south of the Russian border – falls within a 'grey zone' between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

It has yet to be ascertained what exactly happened when the two park workers were allegedly shot.

The effects of Russian shelling on Feldman Ecopark.
Feldman Ecopark

However, the park posted on Facebook to confirm the finding of the two workers' bodies.

The statement read: "We have received confirmation that two of our employees who went missing in early March have died. When the war started, they stayed in the Eco Park and helped feed the animals. When we came to Ecopark on March 7, we did not find them there.

"We searched for them for a long time, connected law enforcement officers, until the last time we hoped that something irreparable didn't happen and they were able to survive. But yesterday we received confirmation that their bodies have been found. Our children were shot by enemies, and their bodies were barricaded in the basement.

"We’ll cherish the blessed memory of these wonderful and courageous people. Sincere condolences to their families and friends. We believe that inhumans who have committed this will definitely be punished!"

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin first sent troops across the border on 24 February, five members of Feldman Ecopark's staff have been killed.

Nearly 100 animals, such as monkeys, goats, big cats and bison, have also lost their lives as a result of Russian shelling.

The Ecopark has been working hard to evacuate animals, with an update from 20 April noting that efforts were going 'successfully, despite all the difficulties'.

Another post shared how the majority of the country's famous group of alpacas from 'Alpaca Valleys' were able to be evacuated to Poltava.

However, the park noted there had been sightings of drones, which 'means danger' and could signal another shelling attack, despite the sanctuary being inhabited by civilians.

The park has since set up a donation page to aid evacuation efforts.

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677 

If you see an animal in distress and/or in need of help, contact the RSPCA's 24-hour animal cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or visit their website for further advice 

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information 

Featured Image Credit: Feldman Ecopark/ Facebook

Topics: Animals, Russia, Ukraine, no-article-matching