Russian soldiers have been accused of shooting dead two Ukrainian zoo workers by their shocked colleagues who revealed they discovered their corpses while evacuating animals to safety.
Workers at the Feldman Ecopark zoo in Kharkiv were reported missing on March 7, when workers at the attraction returned amid the Russian invasion to evacuate the animals to safety.
Their colleagues hoped the two workers had fled the area during the invasion and had not yet returned to the zoo. As they worked to get the animals to a safer part of the country, workers remained optimistic that their colleagues would return.
But a statement from the zoo on Tuesday said the workers had now been found “shot down by the enemies” – Russian soldiers – who then barricaded their bodies in a back room.
The zoo made headlines on April 5 when it was reported that Ecopark was set to make the heartbreaking decision to destroy its lions, tigers and bears after being attacked by Russian bombing.
A statement from the zoo said two of its employees had now been found shot – shot by Russian soldiers who then barricaded their bodies in a room. They were reported missing in March and their colleagues had hoped they had fled the area amid the Russian invasion. Pictured: A take of a zoo employee announcing the death of his colleagues
Pictured: A view of one of the buildings of the Feldman Ecopark zoo in Kharkiv. Two of the zoo workers were found shot dead and barricaded in a back room after staying to help the animals as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine
Pictured: A tiger remains in a cage after being evacuated from the ruined Kharkiv Feldman Ecopark. There were concerns that the park would have to euthanize its animals for fear they would escape during the Russian invasion.
Amid fears that Russian bombs could destroy enclosures and allow dangerous animals to escape – and wreak even more havoc on the nearby region already victim of Moscow’s invasion – the zoo nearly euthanized the animals.
“The infrastructure is down, the enclosures are down. The biggest problem is the big predators,” the zoo warned at the time.
“Their enclosures miraculously retain their integrity, but one more bombardment – and the lions, tigers, bears, can find themselves voluntarily and head towards Kharkov or towards neighboring villages.” We simply cannot allow this.
A few days later, however, it was reported that the zoo was able to evacuate some of its animals out of Kharkiv, averting a potential tragedy.
Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city and lies just 20 miles from the Russian border to the north. As a result, it has endured some of the most intense fighting since Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion.
Earlier in the war, the zoo was heavily bombed and three other workers were killed.
Now, just days after being able to share the good news of the evacuations with its supporters, the zoo has been forced to once again share tragic news – writing that two of its staff have been found shot dead, allegedly by Russian soldiers .
“War brings bad news,” the statement from Feldman Ecopark said. We have received confirmation that two of our employees who went missing in early March have died.
Amid fears the bombs could destroy enclosures and allow dangerous animals to escape – and wreak even more havoc on the nearby region already victim of the Russian invasion – the zoo nearly euthanized its animals. Pictured: A destroyed enclosure at the zoo
Last week, a slight lull in the Russian onslaught allowed the owner of Feldman Ecopark and his staff to stage a daring escape attempt, with the plan now to move the animals to Odessa where they will hopefully be. , safer. The zoo owner said he would try to save “little jaguars” and “little panthers” if possible. Video later showed him cuddling with them in another location
“When the war broke out, they stayed in the Ecopark and helped feed the animals. We arrived at the Ecopark on March 7 and did not find them there.
“We looked for them for a long time, put law enforcement officers in contact. Until the end, we had hoped that nothing irreparable had happened, and they were able to survive.
“But yesterday we received confirmation that their bodies had been found. Our guys were shot by the enemies, and their bodies had been barricaded in the back room.
“We will cherish the blessed memory of these wonderful and courageous people. Sincere condolences to their families and friends. We think the Inhumans who did this will be punished forever!
Last week, a slight lull in the Russian onslaught allowed the owner of Feldman Ecopark and his staff to stage a daring escape attempt, with the plan now to move the animals to Odessa where they will hopefully be. , safer.
Even as they struggled to get the beasts into transport cages for the 800km journey across the war-torn country, the once-thriving zoo came under fire from Vladimir Putin’s forces, keepers say.
Owner Alexander Feldman hailed “another successful day for our team” as they moved the animals.
“Another bombardment – and the lions, tigers, bears, maddened with fear, may be free and head for Kharkiv or the nearby villages,” said zoo owner Alexander Feldman (pictured) – warning earlier this month that he may be forced to destroy a number of his animals because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Pictured: A destroyed residential building in northeast Kharkiv. Russia resupplied its troops and concentrated the offensive on the eastern part of Ukraine. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, now under constant threat from Russian bombing and airstrikes
“Today we managed to remove five big lions from Ecopark,” he said. “We released two other small cats, a jaguar and a lion cub, as well as birds, a silver fox and arctic foxes.” But he said, ‘In the end [of the day] serious gunfire started and we had to leave.
And he hit back at internet trolls alleging in online posts that some of the hundreds of animals would be left for dead.
“Do not believe cruel information about abandoned or useless animals,” he said. “No animal will be left behind, be it a piglet, a tiger or a bear.”
Feldman praised the kind Ukrainians and foreigners who helped make the evacuation possible through financial donations.
“Over the past week, nearly 4,000 people have provided assistance with the evacuation, treatment and food supply of animals from the Feldman Ecopark,” he said.
“This is almost as much as the total number of people who have supported us in a previous period since the start of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“Donations come from all regions of Ukraine, as well as a number of other countries.”
Footage from the evacuation showed workers standing in front of large crates of animals, one of which contained a gaping lion inside. Mr Feldman was seen playfully stroking her fur, keeping her calm as she was moved.
Worrying for the zoo and for Kharkiv, Russia has now resupplied its troops and concentrated the offensive on the eastern part of Ukraine. The city is now under constant threat from Russian bombardments and airstrikes.