Two employees of a zoo in Kharkiv who stayed behind last month to take care of animals amid heavy shelling from Russian forces were found dead, the zoo said in a statement Tuesday.
The Feldman Ecopark zoo said it received confirmation on Monday that the employees had been shot and killed by Russian soldiers and found barricaded in a room.
It was not clear from the statement when the employees died but the zoo said they went missing in early March.
Several animals were evacuated during the shelling, the zoo said, including lions, jaguars, silver foxes and hyenas.
The two employees stayed behind to feed the remaining animals. When other staff returned to the park on March 7, the employees were missing, according to the zoo.
“The staff searched for them and informed law enforcement,” Feldman Ecopark said.
“We’ll cherish the blessed memory of these wonderful and courageous people. Sincere condolences to their families and friends. We believe the inhumane people who have committed this will definitely be punished!”
Parts of the park have been damaged from shelling. A pair of bison were killed, leaving behind a 10-month old calf, the zoo said.
Some context: Kharkiv, located in northeast Ukraine, has faced intense shelling and attacks since the start of the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian shelling had killed five residents and wounded 15 others on Sunday. He added that in the last few days, 18 people in total have been killed and 106 have been wounded by Russian shelling in the city.