Cats and dogs abandoned in east Ukraine seek new homes in Russia.
A one-eyed female cat, found in a destroyed house in the Ukrainian town of Volnovakha and evacuated by volunteers to Russia amid Ukraine-Russia conflict, sits in the arms of Svetlana, who adopted her, in Moscow, Russia April 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
Reuters, April 12 - Yulia travels across the conflict-torn Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, her trunk stuffed with pet carriers, picking up cats and dogs abandoned by owners who left in the hope of finding them new homes in Russia.
Days before Moscow dispatched soldiers into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it dubbed a "special military operation," the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, a Russian-backed separatist area, announced the evacuation of its citizens to southeast Russia owing to increased bombardment.
Many pets were left to their own devices as residents tried to evacuate.
Yulia, a Donetsk resident, has now made nine trips to the Russian border, each time transporting up to 18 pets. She then sends over abandoned cats and dogs to Russian volunteers, who transport them 900 kilometers (560 miles) north to Moscow.
Volunteers from both sides of the border have banded together to find new homes for Donetsk's abandoned cats and dogs, led by Irina Marchenko, a pet store owner in Moscow.
Yulia said she felt obliged to help, even if it meant driving through checks for hours in her dark green Lada with misbehaving cats and shrieking pups as passengers.
Right now, volunteers are caring for so many creatures, Yulia said as she petted a tabby cat. We don't know where we can find them homes in Donetsk because so many people are fleeing.
Despite the fact that the rest of the world considers Donetsk and Luhansk to be part of Ukraine, Russia has recognized them as autonomous entities. Since 2014, rebels supported by Russia have been fighting Ukrainian authorities in the two regions.
The West has placed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an attempt to convince it to remove its forces. Ukrainian forces have launched a determined opposition to Russia's military operation.
Marchenko, the rescue operation's leader, first reached out to Donetsk locals via social media, offering to temporarily lodge their pets or find them new homes in Russia's capital.
When I woke up on February 24, I realized that a lot of animals would end up on the street since individuals wouldn't be able to bring them with them, the Muscovite, 36, said.
We wanted to save the abandoned animals first and foremost, those who had never been on the streets and would not survive there.