Ukraine: UK refugee aid is a 'heartless catastrophe' says Schofield
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As Vladimir Putin’s invasion entered its 13th day, Indian medic Girikumar Patil continues to shelter in the basement of his home in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Orthopaedic doctor Mr Patil has kept a six-month-old female panther cub, plus a 20-month-old male jaguar from Kyiv’s zoo, with him throughout the onslaught.
He told the BBC: “My big cats have been spending nights in the basement with me.”
He added: “There has been a lot of bombing happening around us.
“The cats are scared. They are eating less. I can’t leave them.”
He continued: “Now I am stuck in a war zone.
“This time I am really worried.
“My parents have been calling me and asking me to come home, but I can’t leave the animals.”
Mr Patil, 40, only ventures out in the early hours of the morning to buy food for the big cats in small-town Severodonetsk, which is under a strict curfew.
Originally from Andhra Pradesh in south India, Mr Patil arrived in Ukraine in 2007 and has resided in the country ever since.
Prior to the Russian invasion, he worked in a government hospital in Severodonetsk, as well as maintaining a private practice.
He also raises money through his YouTube channel, where he shows his nearly 90,000 followers footage of his unusual pets.
He told ANI news agency: “I called the [Indian] embassy but didn’t get a proper response.
“My place is surrounded by the Russians but I’m trying my best.”
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Speaking of his two animal companions, he added: “I treat them as my kids.”
He has said he will remain in his home with his panther and jaguar, which he says he bought for just under £26,500 less than two years ago from the zoo in the Ukrainian capital.
The vast majority of his earnings go towards taking care of his animals.
And without these animals, he insists, he will not leave his two-storey home with its small enclosure for the two big cats.
His six-room house is located a mere 80km from the border, and has seen frequent power cuts.
Many of the residents have already left, part of the wave of the more than two million Ukrainians who have already fled for safety in neighbouring nations, according to the head of the UN’s refugee agency.
Mr Patil said: “I am the only Indian out here, and at night I am alone in the neighbourhood.
“Most of my neighbours have moved to nearby villages.
“I am going to hold out.”
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