Oleg Zubkov steals raccoons and other animals from Kherson Zoo

Opinion

Russian forces have made a name for themselves by looting their way through Ukraine, stealing washing machines, electronics, cultural relics and even the bones of Empress Catherine II’s lover. But the latest theft — including seven raccoons, two she-wolves, peacocks, a llama and a donkey from the Kersen Zoo — entered Fares’ territory.

Taigan Lion Park, owned by Oleg Zubkov, filmed a private Crimean zoo inexplicably grabbing raccoons by their tails and throwing them into cages, saying in a YouTube video: “We’re in Kherson. Oleg Zubkov catches a raccoon with his bare hands!!!

The video, which was made unavailable on Sunday, showed the llama being held in a broken windowless van with two helpers as a dog barked nearby. Another video uploaded on Sunday showed two wolves from the Kherson Zoo being tamed in a zoo in Crimea, with two Russian television stations filming the event. He called it “temporary displacement.”

“Here it will be much better for the wolves: a big state, the Crimean sun, and after independence they will find a man,” said Zubkov. “It was their dream to live here,” he said in comments to Russian media on YouTube.

He said the animals, including any wolf cubs, would be returned once Russia recaptured Kherson.

“For us, this is a humanitarian mission. These animals have no animal value to us. We have our own wolves. We have 75 raccoons. We could make canned raccoon meat,” he said before chuckling, with an awkward joke. “I’m sorry. But seriously, we have a lot of raccoons, but we took them to keep these animals alive and so that the residents of Kerson are happy to see them alive again. The animals are in good hands.

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Ukraine’s Defense Ministry posted one of the videos and warned of retaliation for the raccoon theft.

Ukrainian troops recaptured the strategic southern city last week after Russia withdrew. Kherson was one of the first major cities to fall in the Kremlin’s all-out assault that began in February. His independence was welcomed in the streets after months of Russian occupation.

The animal’s removal was widely reported in the Russian media, describing it as a small bright spot in an otherwise dark picture. Nationalist Russian poet and blogger Anna Dolgareva said in a telegram that Moscow’s handover to Kerson was “only good news” because her friend was able to “steal a raccoon” from the Kerson zoo.

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“We will not return the raccoon,” Dolgareva said. “We will return Kerson.”

Rakoon claimed that the Telegram channel Rakoon was set up by Kerson.

Ukrainian animal activist Oleksandr Todorchuk confirmed the report on Facebook.

Zubkov, who calls himself the Lion Man, was convicted of negligence in September 2021 after one of his tigers bit the finger of a 1-year-old boy. He was sentenced to two years and three months in prison and served two months. A criminal court quashed the sentence on October 27 and released him soon after, provided he did not leave the area. Zubkov said he intervened to ensure that Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin’s appointed leader in Crimea, traveled to Kherson to pick up the animals.

Last month, the head of the Russian administration in Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, said that Russia had taken Grigory Potemkin’s remains from the Kherson cemetery. Potemkin, the 18th century Russian military man, annexed the Crimea, founded the city, administered the Russian Imperial lands in the region, and created the Black Sea Fleet. He was also famous as the lover and close protector of Empress Catherine II, known as Catherine the Great.

The loss of the city of Kherson shattered Putin’s war intentions in Ukraine

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of transporting disabled children from Kherson to Crimea and Russia, as well as taking prisoners of war. Local independent media channels aired videos of buses, fire engines, construction equipment and a small train carrying children – all being driven out of Kherson in the days before Moscow surrendered the city.

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The Kherson Kremlin-appointed administration removed hundreds of important works of art and icons from the Kherson Art Museum, emptied the gallery from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, and took the works wrapped in cloth and loaded into unmarked trucks to Crimea before Russia, museum staff said in a Nov. 4 Facebook post. Surrender of Kerson.

They call it “displacement.” It’s ‘robbery’ in our language,” he wrote. His works were later exhibited in the Central Museum of Tavrida in the Crimean city of Simferopol. Kerson police are focused on pacifying the recently restored city, but have announced a criminal investigation into the theft of the works.

Police also said that Russian soldiers stole four official cars of the medical center, hospital computers, medicines, civilian cars, boats and hunting equipment.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of looting or damaging hundreds of Ukrainian cultural institutions during the war.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces evacuated buildings and blew up television towers, communications towers and bridges in central Kherson. Local media reported witnesses who said they saw Russians removing construction materials, furniture and household items from Kersan.



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