Ukraine has been using pictures of civilians alongside their pets in an effort to “humanise” those affected by the Russian invasion and draw further support from the West. US defence expert Peter Singer said Ukraine was using the fact that “we all love our pets” to appeal to the West and show that its civilians are just like any other citizen, desperate to keep their pets safe. He claimed the most viral image during the first wave of strikes against Ukrainian cities was of “a man who took his cat with him into the bomb shelter”.
Mr Singer said: “This is part of a larger narrative thread, which is really about humanising the Ukrainian side.
“Rather than just posting ‘We lost this number of soldiers or civilians yesterday’, it is personal stories instead. One of the most viral images during the initial bombardment of the Ukrainian cities was – it is strange but this is the way people operate – not of civilians killed.
“It was of a man who took his cat with him into the bomb shelter and said ‘Here I am with my brave cat’.
“And people just connected to that story. It was a way of humanising. We all love our pets and here was a way of seeing the harm that Russia is showing against civilians and their pets.”
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Western support for Ukraine is paramount to its attempts to push back the invading Russian forces; without it, Russia’s army would demonstratively outnumber them.
They have resorted to a range of methods to garner support, including being proactive on social media to show the devastation wrought by Putin’s forces before Russia can make its own claims of what is happening.
The continually visible presence of President Volodymyr Zelensky in the capital of Kyiv despite Russian strikes, as well as intermittently in newly-liberated cities such as Kherson, has also provided the country with an anchor upon which to build their case for Western backing.
But bizarrely, the use of pet imagery has additionally been utilised by Ukraine to draw attention to the scope of Russian atrocities.
Images of civilians taking their pets with them to bomb shelters, of soldiers playing with Ukrainian dogs and children alongside ostriches endangered by the Russian strikes have been posted on social media.
Stories have also emerged of Ukrainian frontline soldiers rescuing dozens of animals and helping them to be rehoused in safer locations.
And a Ukrainian rights organisation, called UAnimals, detailed to Western reporters the extent of devastation wrought on pets across the country.
The ploy has, ironically, been used as a means of humanising Ukrainian citizens and soldiers alike as they unite, alongside their pets, against Putin’s barbaric invasion.
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A photo of soldiers and animal-lovers Oskana Krasnova and Stanislav Krasnov holding a rescued cat was widely shared on social media.
The Ukrainian sniper and her husband fighting on the frontline have rescued dozens of pets after discovering them abandoned on the battlefield.
Oskana uses her wages to pay for food and supplies to nurse the animals back to health before arranging for them to be transported on military vehicles to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv to be rehomed.
UAnimals co-founder and CEO Olha Chevhaniuk also spoke of how hundreds of dogs in a shelter in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, had been killed by Russian strikes.
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