Oleg Zubkov steals raccoons and other animals from Kherson Zoo


The Russian military has gained a reputation for looting all over Ukraine, seizing washing machines, electronics, cultural objects and even the bones of Empress Catherine II’s lover. But the latest theft – seven raccoons, two female wolves, a peacock, a llama and a donkey from the Kherson zoo – entered the Persian kingdom.

Taigan Aslan Park, a private Crimean zoo owned by Oleg Zubkov, “We are in Kherson. Oleg Zubkov catches a raccoon with his bare HANDS!!!”

Video, which was not available Sunday, showed him and two assistants dragging the llama into a dilapidated, windowless van while the dog ran nearby. Another video uploaded on Sunday shows the release of two wolves, which it says are from the Kherson zoo, into a Crimean zoo as two Russian television channels film the incident. He called it “temporary evacuation”.

“It will be better for wolves here: a large area, Crimean sun, and besides, they will get a male after quarantine,” said Zubkov. “It was their dream to live here,” he claimed in comments to Russian media on YouTube.

According to him, the animals, including wolf cubs, will be sent back after Russia reoccupies Kherson.

“For us, this is a humanitarian mission. These animals have no zoological value for us. We have our own monsters. We have 75 raccoons. We could make canned raccoon meat,” he said, before scoffing in what appeared to be an awkward joke. “Sorry. But seriously, we have a lot of raccoons, but we took these animals to keep them alive, and the people of Kherson would be happy to see them alive again. The animals are in good hands.”

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The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine released one of the videos and warned of reprisals for raccoon theft.

Ukrainian troops recaptured the strategically important southern city last week after Russia withdrew. Kherson was one of the first major cities to fall under the Kremlin’s large-scale occupation that began in February. The liberation was celebrated in the streets after months of Russian occupation.

The removal of the animals was widely covered in the Russian media, otherwise dimly portrayed as a small bright spot. Nationalist Russian poet and blogger Anna Dolgareva revealed on Telegram that the “only good news” about Moscow’s surrender of Kherson was that her friend had managed to “steal a raccoon” from the Kherson zoo.

“We will not return the raccoon,” said Dolgareva. “We will take Kherson back.”

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He said that the raccoon Telegram channel from Kherson was established.

Ukrainian animal activist Oleksandr Todorchuk confirmed the news 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. The occupation court overturned the sentence on October 27, and after some time he was released on the condition that he not leave the territory. Zubkov said that Sergei Aksyonov, the leader appointed by the Kremlin in Crimea, intervened so that he could go to Kherson to pick up the animals.

Last month, the head of Russia’s Kherson administration, Vladimir Saldo, said that Russia had removed Grigory Potemkin’s bones from his grave in Kherson. Potemkin, an 18th-century Russian military figure who annexed Crimea, founded the city, ruled Russia’s imperial lands in the region, and created the Black Sea Fleet. He was also known as the lover and close protégé of Empress Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great.

The loss of Kherson undermines Putin’s war aims in Ukraine

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of taking disabled children from Kherson to Crimea and Russia, as well as taking prisoners of war. Local independent media channels have released videos showing buses, fire engines, construction equipment and even a miniature train with children’s carriages being driven out of Kherson days before Moscow surrendered the city.

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Kherson’s Kremlin-appointed administration also removed hundreds of valuable works of art and icons from the Kherson Art Museum, emptying the gallery between October 31 and November 3 and transporting the works, wrapped in rags and packed in unmarked vans, to Crimea before Russia. Kherson’s surrender, according to a Facebook post by museum staff on November 4.

“They call it ‘evacuation.’ In our language, this is ‘looting,'” the article says. The works were later exhibited at the Tavrida Central Museum in Simferopol, Crimea. Kherson police have announced a criminal investigation into the theft of the works, although they are focused on stabilizing the recently recaptured city.

Police also said Russian forces stole four medical center service vehicles, hospital computer equipment, medicines, civilian vehicles, boats and hunting weapons.

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

Russian forces also mined buildings in central Kherson, blowing up a television tower, communications towers and bridges, Ukrainian officials said. Local media reported that witnesses saw Russians taking construction materials, furniture and household appliances from Kherson.


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