Cats: Ukraine's secret weapon in the war with Russia
- Cats have provided crucial comfort and emotional support to Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines.
- They have also been key to raising thousands of dollars in aid.
Cats have played a key role in supporting Ukrainian soldiers and civilians since Russia's invasion in February 2022, keeping troops company on the front lines and providing comfort for displaced citizens.
Now, they are even helping Ukraine raise funds for its military.
Their soaring popularity on social media has led to thousands of dollars worth of donations for equipment and weapons for front-line soldiers.
Oleksandr Liashuk is a soldier from Odesa in southern Ukraine. He said he and his cat Shayba have collected around $80,000 from their fundraising campaigns on social media.
Liashuk attributed his fundraising success to Shayba's popularity.
"His admirers are everywhere — from Chile to Japan — so Shayba's stories touch people's hearts worldwide, motivating them to contribute to Ukraine's aid," Liashuk told Business Insider.
Thanks to Shayba's fundraising efforts, Liashuk said he was able to buy eight military vehicles for his unit, an anti-drone gun, and a thermal imaging camera.
Ukrainian authorities even awarded him with a volunteer award for his help, Liashuk said in a post on his Instagram account last year.
Another cat at the heart of the conflict on the front line is Stepan, whose Instagram account has 1.4 million followers.
Stepan was injured by the noise of explosions from Russian shelling in Kharkiv, his owner, Anna Volodymyrivna Dmytrenko, told BI.
But despite his injuries, Stepan is still helping bring in funds, Dmytrenko said.
He even has his own online shop, "Love You Stepan," selling bags, plaids, hoodies, mugs, and pillows with his face printed on them.
Dmytrenko declined to disclose the shop's revenues to BI.
However, she said Stepan is playing a vital role in fundraising campaigns for Ukraine's military.
Last year, he and his owner supported The War Fragments museum charity in their efforts to raise close to $800,000 to support the military needs of Ukraine's Third Separate Assault Brigade, Dmytrenko said.
She added that they were also helping the Khartia charity raise $665,000 to help Ukraine's 13th brigade of the National Guard buy electronic warfare systems and reconnaissance equipment to aid its war effort.
"This is not just equipment — it's a chance to save the lives of our defenders and enhance their capabilities on the battlefield," she said.
In 2022, Stepan also became the ambassador of "Save Ukrainian Culture," a project dedicated to restoring Ukrainian cultural objects damaged during Russia's invasion.
The extra boost provided to Ukraine's funding efforts is particularly welcome given the country's depleting ammunition stocks, which have forced its military to scale back some operations and ramp up its domestic drone production.
But there is some positive news for Ukraine, as the Senate recently voted to advance a debate over a $60 billion aid package to the country.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was a "good first step," adding that he would "keep working on this bill until the job is done."
Dmytrenko and Liashuk said they hoped their cats can offer soldiers hope getting the equipment they need to keep fighting.
"In these difficult times, Stepan has become a symbol of unity and resilience, showing that even one small cat can make big dreams come true," Dmytrenko said.
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