By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Several groups are asking for immediate aid from the international community to help trapped animals and volunteers in war-torn Ukraine.
Roughly 10 million Ukrainians are displaced about a month after the Russian invasion began. More than 3.6 million are refugees who’ve fled to neighboring countries.
Those fleeing for their lives weren’t able to take all of their pets. Animals in zoos, national parks, shelters and other institutions are all on the verge of death.
Some animal volunteers are trapped. At least five civilian volunteers seeking to transport animal food have been killed by the Russian military.
U.S.-based animal rights groups are working with European partners to help. PETA is partnering with PETA Germany, supported by the Global Compassion Fund, to provide a range of rescue efforts.
The Humane Society International is providing the Romanian Red Cross with pet food to distribute to Ukrainians, lifesaving humanitarian aid transports, and assisting with in-country organizations through grants. It’s also connecting with animal welfare groups in Germany, Italy and Poland to provide emergency food, blankets and veterinary care to Ukrainian refugees arriving with their pets.
“Thousands of animals and volunteers are on the verge of death at their workplaces,” Olivia Milton, a Ukrainian volunteer with the Journalists & Communicators Initiative, told The Center Square. “On occupied territories, they are still cut off from the power supply, without food, water, and aid help. If we don’t find ways to organize green corridors and deliver food, water, and gasoline — death is imminent.”
Ukrainian groups are asking the international community and governments to put pressure on Russia to establish safe passage and green corridors and to stop killing animals and innocent civilians.
As of March 24, there have been an estimated 2,685 civilian casualties in Ukraine; 1,035 have been killed and 1,650 have been injured, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights reports.
Risking their lives, volunteers are attempting to evacuate trapped animals or at least deliver food supplies to facilities, Ms. Milton said. Animal shelters across Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv regions have been under attack and need humanitarian aid.
In Eastern Ukraine, in the Dergachev district of the Kharkiv region, the Feldman-Ecopark/zoo, which holds 2,000 animals, is in dire straits.
Two volunteers attempting to feed animals there were shot and killed by the Russian military, Pravda News reports.
The park’s owner and Ukrainian MP, Oleksandr Feldman, said on Facebook, “Two people who managed to get into the park’s territory to feed the animals (it is needed at least once every three days) were killed. They died under mortar and machine gun fire.”
Three volunteers were also shot dead in their car by the Russian military when they atttempted to deliver food to a dog shelter in Bucha, Global News Canada reported.
In the Dymer community of the Kyiv region, more than 3,000 animals and volunteers are trapped in Sirius, Ukraine’s largest animal shelter.
Iryna Lozova, the shelter’s coordinator, said in a statement, “For 26 days we cannot bring food and medicine for people and animals. Of all residents of the Dymer community, 3,165 dogs and 218 cats became hostages. There will be enough food for animals until March 21. There is no gasoline for the generator for two days. Help us save the animals! We are currently looking for organizations to help evacuate animals abroad after the corridor is created. They need to find a safe home. The green corridor is the only way to save the hostages of war.”
More than 700 animals and four people remain stranded in the Gostomel Shelter, one of the oldest shelters in Ukraine. It’s been hit by shells three times and attacked by a tank.
As of March 20, its team reports, “We need at least one green corridor to bring food, medicine, gasoline, and water. From the first day of the war, all employees of the animal shelter in Hostomel remain at their workplace. We feed not only animals in the shelter but also those who have been abandoned by people.”
The Russian military also burned a private equestrian stable in Gostomel, killing most of the horses inside. Its owner wrote on Facebook, “Our stable was bombed out, and our horses were burned alive in stalls. There was no one to save them, it was impossible to break through to them, because the Russians firmly settled in Bucha, Gostomel, Irpen. (The Russians) took our stable and sat there for about 10 days, after which they smashed it to pieces.”
At the Borodyanka Animal Protection Shelter, more than 485 dogs were caged without food and water for more than 20 days unable to be reached by volunteers, who asked for help on Facebook. In the Kharkiv region, an animal shelter with 293 dogs inside was hit by a shell on March 8, Ukrainian NGO Animal Rescue Kharkiv reported.