Ukraine: Dozens of dogs killed in Kyiv

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Almost all kennels of the animal shelter Best Friends were damaged or destroyed by attacks throughout March. According to volunteer Elena Artykhovych, the first bombing took place on the first day of the month, a mere five days into a military conflict that is now nearing its 11th week. No animals were hurt then, but a second bombing, two days later, killed 68 puppies.

Ms Artykhovych said: “The second air raid blew away all the windows in our cat house, some cats died that day from a heart attack or were thrown away by the blast wave.”

Managers at the Best Friends shelter near Ukraine’s Kyiv Oblast have spent weeks rebuilding their site after losing almost everything in what they say were Russian assaults.

A Facebook post on the day of the first attack read: “A bomb was dropped on the shelter!!!! The shelter is on fire! Need quick help!!!”

One day after the fourth attack, on March 18, shelter manager Christina Safaryan wrote in a post: “Enemies killed me every time they dropped bombs on the shelter. It hurts a lot…

“They killed my dream of having the best animal shelter.”

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The team at the shelter said they released all of the animals from their enclosures after the second attack so they would not be trapped if hit again.

Many of the surviving animals left and headed into the surrounding woods and villages. Other hundreds of cats and dogs were sent to safety in Poland.

Managers and volunteers told the Independent that due to fears of further attacks they did not clear the corpses for a month. They also said they could not understand why Russia would target an animal shelter hidden in the woods miles from the nearest town.

Ms Artykhovych said she suspected forces confused the shelter with a factory or military base — sites that could harm the Ukrainian defence if destroyed — in satellite images.

Other reports of devastating animal casualties include that of more than three hundred dogs at a shelter in Borodyanka, also in Kyiv Oblast, after remaining locked in their cages since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Charity organisation UAnimals said 485 dogs had been locked in their cages until April 1 because volunteers could not return to the shelter to free them given the ongoing fighting.

When they finally made it to the premises, they found just 150 had survived.

Some 27 of them were in critical condition and thus transferred to private clinics for treatment, UAnimals said.

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The tragedy, first reported by CBS News, was told by Oleksandra Matviichuk, lawyer and head of the Ukrainian nonprofit Centre for Civil Liberties, in a video in which the carcasses of dogs piled up on the floor could be seen.

She tweeted: “I have no words. Russians even killed dozens of dogs in Kyiv region. WHY??”

Ms Matviichuk added: “These dogs died with a painful death of hunger and thirst during Russian occupation.”

The pain caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has become unmistakably clear.

On Tuesday, day 76 of the war, the United Nations said the real civilian death toll is “thousands higher” than official figures have so far suggested.

While the official figure stands at 3,381, alongside 3,680 injuries, that is an underestimation, the head of the UN’s human rights monitoring mission in the country said.

Matilda Bogner told reporters: “We have been working on estimates, but all I can say for now is that it is thousands higher than the numbers we have currently given to you.”

The UN team, which includes 55 monitors in Ukraine, said most of the deaths have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, such as missiles and airstrikes.

Ms Bogner added: “The big black hole is really Mariupol, where it has been difficult for us to fully access and to get fully corroborated information.”

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