Heroic Ukrainians rescuing dogs from frontline share videos of mission

Powerful comparison video shows winter in Ukraine for animals

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An animal rescue and shelter group in Ukraine have been working tirelessly over the Christmas and New Year break to save dozens of pets left stranded and injured by Russia’s brutal invasion. Zoopatrul Ukraine ventured within 50 miles of the frontline in the east during the holiday period to rescue cats and dogs caught up in the conflict. Working with portable generators and emergency equipment at their Kyiv base, they are currently keeping warm, nursing and socialising 35 dogs and 60 cats. They shared with Express.co.uk exclusive footage of some of the animals rescued during this Christmas break. 

The Zoopatrul Ukraine shelter is based in Irpin, in the Kyiv region, and was founded in March, just weeks after the first Russian soldiers stepped into the country. 

By the end of the year, Zoopatrul had more than 70 volunteers and had ventured as far as the city of Izium, which is just 49 miles away from the frontline and had been under Russian occupation from early March to September. The city is now subject to continual Russian shelling. 

Dmytro Revnyuk, Zoopatrul Ukraine’s founder, said it was “hard to forget the eyes of one cat from Izium who was saved from a half-destroyed house”. 

He described the “severe stress” and “psychological trauma” some of the animals were suffering and said his volunteers had been told stories by locals of Russian soldiers “just shooting cats at dogs in the streets” during their occupation. 

Zoopatrul Ukraine embarked on daily missions over the Christmas break, venturing as far north as Chernihiv, near the Belarussian border, to Kharkiv, in the northeast, and down to Izium. 

Once rescued, these dogs and cats were taken back to the shelter in Irpin, where they would be treated, vaccinated and resocialised. 

After the animals have had sufficient time to recover, they will be returned to their homes or found new owners. Currently, around 60 percent of those rescued have found a home. 

But the difficulties facing the animals and volunteers do not abate once they have returned to the shelter, which is more than 400 hundred miles away from the frontline. 

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Russian forces brutally attacked critical energy infrastructure, using deadly Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and long range missiles, throughout the Christmas break, plunging areas across Ukraine into darkness and power outages. 

Mr Revnyuk’s Zoopatrul shelter in Irpin was particularly affected. He said the “power outages here are much longer” due to the devastation suffered in the region when Russian forces occupied in March. 

He said: “The heating of enclosures, houses where rescued cats live, and the veterinary clinic depends on electricity. To supply the shelter with electricity and heating, we bought and connected generators that consume fuel, thus creating additional costs.” 

But he said the “main problem of the electricity outages relates to the activities of our veterinarians”. 

He described how the shelter vet, Daria, was forced to “perform complex surgeries by candlelight” or “even disinfect surgery equipment on a fire” because of the lengthy electricity cuts. 

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A post shared by ЗооПатруль UA (@zoopatrul.ua)

Zoopatrul Ukraine’s work, however, has not gone unnoticed, and on New Year’s Eve, the charity was awarded the “Golden Heart” award, which is a new prize given to volunteer organisations for their efforts during the war. 

Irena Skakun, one of Zoopatrul’s volunteers, was given the award by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

He praised the group for their efforts and thanked them for working “every day, every hour, every minute”. 

Mr Zelensky said: “I want to thank you for strengthening our defence forces since 2014. And I want to thank you – because I am sure of this – for the fact that you are bringing our victory closer, starting from February 24, every day, every hour, every minute.” 

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