More than 300 dogs were discovered dead in a Ukrainian animal shelter after weeks without food or water, an animal charity said on Tuesday.
Volunteers with UAnimals, who returned to the Borodyanka shelter outside Kyiv, the capital, said the dogs were forced to starve to death by Russian troops who had left them trapped in cages for nearly a month amid constant bombings.
"With the shelter increasingly inaccessible due to the conflict, sadly many of the dogs perished," Wendy Higgins, director of international media for Humane Society International, told NPR in an email.
Higgins said the organization is working with local groups and volunteers, including UAnimals, to relocate the surviving animals.
"Now that Russian troops have withdrawn from the area and the shelter has finally become accessible by volunteers, the Ukraine Small Animal Veterinary Association has been able to confirm that 253 dogs were found alive," she added.
Of those, 25 were taken in critical condition to nearby veterinary clinics, where they seem to be improving and are now understood to be in a stable condition, according to Higgins.
"The remaining dogs are being taken out of the shelter to safety, and foster homes in countries neighbouring Ukraine are being sought for them," Higgins explained.
UAnimals posted several gruesome images on Facebook showing the emaciated canines lying lifeless in small enclosures. In some photos, they appear to be embracing each other; in others, they are piled in a mound with their malnourished limbs akimbo.
The pictures have appalled Facebook users, who have called it all an "inexcusable tragedy" that is "too disgusting for words."
"Animals do not start war. They have no choice. What a terrible way to die," commented one user.
Others are blaming the people who run the shelter, saying they shouldn't have left the dogs locked inside in the first place.
Higgins offered a bright spot of news: A Ukrainian cat will soon be reunited with its family in Arkansas, after the family managed to escape the carnage of the occupation.