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The human cost of Russia’s attack on Ukraine is all too clear, but innocent animals are paying the price for Putin’s invasion too.
Heartbreaking photos emerging from a petting zoo in the village of Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, show animals that have starved to death, while others have been eaten by stray dogs.
A few appear to have been used as “target practice” by occupying Russian troops.
Even the animals that have survived are showing signs of severe malnutrition and stress, with harrowing image showing ponies that have collapsed being loaded onto trucks.
Local volunteer Vitaly Mukhanov wrote on Facebook that he had stumbled across the site while delivering supplies to the Ukrainian defence forces: "You can see from the images that the animals were in a very bad way."
The park appeared to have been damaged by shelling and the animals, including camels and ostriches, had been left with nothing to eat.
“You could tell that many of the animals starved to death," Vitaly told ABC News.
"The town nearby was liberated from the Russians two days ago, so the owner is now returning to the zoo and they hope to evacuate the animals in the next couple of days”.
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Other images posted by Vitaly show Ukrainian troops petting the animals and even being chased around by a bad-tempered ostrich.
An attempt to evacuate the animals had to be abandoned after the area fell under further Russian artillery fire.
Akim Akimenko, the owner of Yasnohorodka Eco Park, told local news outlet MyKiev: “Our [zoo] is almost destroyed and the situation in Yasnohorodka is very difficult.
"There is sustained fighting. Therefore, we have great difficulties in feeding and keeping the animals. We are trying to evacuate animals and ask anyone who cares about animals to help us organise an evacuation corridor.”
Rescue workers have also reached an animal shelter in Borodyanka, near Kyiv, which was recently abandoned by Russian forces.
Ukrainian animal charity UAnimals said on Facebook that very few of the dogs and other pets there has survived: “Unfortunately, most of the animals died, and of the 485 residents of the shelter, only 150 survived.
"The animals are exhausted and in serious condition," the statement continued. "27 of them were taken to the clinic by volunteers today, the rest of the animals are also cared for by activists and veterinarians.”
- Russia Ukraine war
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