An Indian doctor Girikumar Patil has refused to leave Ukraine for India without his pet jaguar, amid the Ukraine-Russia war, in Donbas on Monday. Image Credit: ANI

Donbas: Amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, an Indian doctor living in Severodonetsk city of Ukraine has refused to leave the country without taking his “big cats” - a black panther and a jaguar - along.

Dr Girikumar Patil, who is also a YouTuber and an influencer, has been staying in Ukraine since 2007. “I originally belong from Andhra Pradesh and came here in 2007 to pursue MBBS. I finished my course in 2014. Since 2019, I wanted to have big cats like a Bengal tiger,” Patil, who is also known as Jaguar Kumar, told ANI.

“I spoke to Kyiv zoo regarding this. This jaguar (pointing towards his pet) is actually a crossbreed between a leopard and a black jaguar and is very rare,” he said, adding that the jaguar is 20 months old while the black panther is six months old.

Patil refuses to leave Ukraine without his “big cats”. “For me, these are not my pets. I don’t treat them like pets but treat them like my kids,” he stated.

On being asked if he has spoken to authorities about taking his pets along, Patil said, “I’m calling the embassy but I didn’t get a proper response. My place is completely surrounded by Russians. But I’m trying my level best.”

Patil’s resolve to not leave behind his pets might be unique in terms of the kind of pets he owns. However, it is not unheard of as earlier, many Indian nationals refused to leave their pets behind while they were being evacuated from the war-torn country.

In a major relief to these pet-lovers, the Government of India had issued a memorandum facilitating “a one-time relaxation measure” for bringing back pet dogs and cats along with stranded Indians who are being evacuated from war-hit Ukraine.

A growing number of stranded Indian students from Ukraine are returning with their furry friends, with some even taking risks and forgoing personal belongings in their efforts to save their pets.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent four special envoys to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries from where Indians are being evacuated.

Four cabinet ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiran Rijiju, General (Retd) VK Singh, and Hardeep Singh Puri have been on the job for the last many days. A former diplomat Hardeep Puri has been stationed in Hungary to coordinate their efforts to evacuate Indian students.

Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24, three days after Moscow recognised Ukraine’s breakaway regions - Donetsk and Luhansk -as independent entities.