n Indian doctor living in the Ukraine warzone is hiding out in a basement with his beloved pets – a black panther and jaguar.
Orthopaedic doctor Girikumar Patil, 40, is struggling to look after the exotic animals as he hides from Russian troops in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Mr Patil has kept a six-month-old female panther cub and a 20-month-old male jaguar from Kyiv’s zoo with him throughout the invasion.
He has to sneak out at night to buy 23kg of sheep, turkey and chicken meat for the pair.
Mr Patil told The BBC: “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.
“My big cats have been spending nights in the basement with me. There has been a lot of bombing happening around us. The cats are scared. They are eating less. I can’t leave them.”
He said he was determined to hold out after moving from Luhansk where pro-Russia-rebels have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014.
His home and the Indian restaurant he opened in Luhansk were destroyed.
It forced him to move to Severodonetsk – 62 miles away.
He said: “This is the second war I am living through. But this is scarier… 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, who hails from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, said he spent £26,460 to buy the panther and the jaguar from the Kyiv zoo about 20 months ago.
He claimed the zoo allowed private sales of animals provided the owner had enough space to keep them.
Mr Patil showed the birth certificates of the animals supplied by the zoo to the BBC.
He added: “If I abandon them, they will die and I cannot bear that. I will die along with them. This war was started by humans, why should animals suffer for the evil men?”