Ukrainian authorities are accusing Russians of executing animals by hanging them.
“Killing is entertainment for them,” said a tweet on Monday from the Ukraine Ministry of Defense, accompanied with photos of dead animals at a site allegedly abandoned by Russian soldiers. “When the occupiers are unable to torture & kill civilians, they do it to animals.”
Reported among the animals was a rare gray dwarf hamster, said by the Ministry to be listed in the Red Book of Ukraine—an official national list of threatened animals, plants and fungi protected by law in Ukraine.
The photos were published just one day after The Washington Post reported that seven raccoons, two female wolves, peacocks, a llama and a donkey were stolen from Kherson Zoo.
Oleg Zubkov, owner of a private Crimean zoo called Taigan Lion Park, and assistants grabbed raccoons with bare hands and manhandled the llama “into a dilapidated, windowless van,” according to The Washington Post, which cited videos recorded by multiple Russian media outlets.
Zubkov described the thefts as a “temporary evacuation” and said on YouTube that the animals would all be returned once Russia reoccupies Kherson.
“The occupiers stole everything from Kherson: paintings from art galleries, antiquities from museums, historic manuscripts from libraries,” the Ukraine Ministry of Defense tweeted on Sunday. “But their most prized loot was a raccoon they stole from a zoo. Steal a raccoon and Die.”
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, also uploaded a video of the animal theft. He said that the “stolen raccoon…is fighting with all his strength.”
At the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, animals were part of rescue efforts—which in some cases included help from neighboring countries.
Just days after Russia’s February 24 invasion, animals from an animal sanctuary near the capital city of Kyiv were evacuated and sent to a zoo in Poland. The animals and those delivering them in transport somehow survived the border crossing, even after their envoy was surrounded by Russian tanks.
Just a little over a month later, zookeepers at one Ukrainian location made the decision to put down large animals, including lions and tigers, after enclosures were destroyed by Russian shelling. Euthanization was the only option because transporting large animals was described as too complex by one official.
Feeding stations for dogs and cats became routine to see across some of Ukraine’s hardest hit areas in the first few months of the conflict, notably as many animals became displaced.
Ukrainian officials said that by the end of February, volunteers managed to receive and process more than 700 animal rescue requests.
Multiple animal-based organizations provided food stations and shelter and also tended to homeless animals—which included sending veterinarians to a refugee camp in Poland and providing humanitarian assistance.
Newsweek reached out to the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries for comment.