Regardless of having a platoon of elite Russian particular forces camped proper exterior his entrance door, Alexi Kosenko says he confirmed them ‘no worry and no respect’ as he subjected the troopers to blistering each day rants for daring to invade his beloved nation.
‘I known as them pigs, I known as them canines, I informed them to f*** off house,’ grins the 49-year-old.
His neighbours feared that any day the Russians would have sufficient of his wild antics and easily kill him, as that they had accomplished with different Ukrainians who had proven such open dissent.
At one level, Alexi’s defiance noticed him staring down the barrel of a Russian tank. However nonetheless right here he stands at this time, alive and nicely, with out even a scratch from the invaders.
Why this can be the case quickly turns into apparent when Alexi introduces us to his white Bengal tiger. Dara, an 11-month-old cub reared by Alexi from beginning, playfully wrestles together with his proprietor in her cage on the non-public zoo.
Alexi Kosenko pictured together with his white Bengal tiger cub, Dara. The 11-month-old cub reared by Alexi from beginning playfully wrestles together with his proprietor in her cage on the non-public zoo
Alexi mentioned the misguided invaders had barged their approach in to go looking his property for Ukrainian forces, and had been stunned when he confirmed him Dara and a pet Lynx known as Simba
Strolling across the cages on the sprawling property evokes photos from the hit Netflix present Tiger King. Actually, Alexi seems to be minimize from the identical fabric as a few of that present’s wild characters.
The rental property developer has spent the final eight years constructing his sanctuary within the rural village of Shybene. It’s down the highway from the bombed-out city of Boradyanka the place there was fierce preventing throughout Putin’s botched invasion to beat the capital Kyiv 40 miles away.
Surrounded by pine timber and with its personal fishing lake and meadow, it’s an idyllic spot. Maybe the invading Russian troopers thought so too – till they met the indomitable Mr Kosenko.
‘I confirmed them no worry and no respect,’ he declares triumphantly. ‘I mentioned: “Who do you suppose you’re? Why are you right here?” They mentioned they had been looking for Nazis and I mentioned, “you guys are misplaced. There may be nothing right here however dachas (summer time cottages) and previous folks.”‘
Alexi mentioned: ‘Dara was crying on a regular basis…The entire animals had been so scared. The bottom was shaking from the shelling and the explosions. I used to be anxious they might all have coronary heart assaults’
Alexi – pictured with meals for Dara, his Bengal tiger cub – spent the two-month occupation holed up at his dacha in Shybene together with his spouse and 5 kids
Alexi mentioned the misguided invaders had barged their approach in to go looking his property for Ukrainian forces, and had been stunned when he confirmed him Dara and a pet Lynx known as Simba.
‘They had been involved,’ he says, throwing again his head with a throaty snort. ‘They had been saying, “what’s the objective of this?” They had been asking about how a lot meals she eats.’
He explains Dara chomps by means of a staggering 11lbs of meat every day and Simba wants round 4lbs. Then there are Alexi’s 350 different animals that want taking care of, together with a loud macaque known as Bob, deer, rhea and peacocks.
The businessman, from Kyiv, spent the two-month occupation holed up at his dacha in Shybene together with his spouse and 5 kids. However because the shells and bullets flew overhead, his largest concern was for the security of his pricey animals on the property.
Alexi stared down the barrel of a Russian tank in his desperation to maintain his animals fed throughout the weeks of Russian occupation. Pictured, Dara the tiger cub
‘Dara was crying on a regular basis,’ he says. ‘The entire animals had been so scared. The bottom was shaking from the shelling and the explosions. I used to be anxious they might all have coronary heart assaults.’
Troopers fashioned a hoop of metal across the village and refused to let anybody out. Alexi had back-up mills to maintain his freezers filled with cow legs for Dara working throughout energy cuts. However because the occupation reached its second month, he was quickly operating out of meals.
He says: ‘I used to be screaming on the Russians. I mentioned my animals had been going to starve. I used to be going out on my quad bike to the checkpoints and entering into arguments with them.’
The sanctuary is alongside a small fishing lake, with neighbouring dachas which had been incessantly raided by the Russians
As he chain-smoked cigarettes and knocked again photographs of robust. home-made vodka, Alexi revealed Russian troops compelled him to strip all the way down to his underwear one evening as temperatures plunged under minus eight celsius. He had ridden out as soon as extra to a checkpoint on the fringe of the village together with his ten-year-old son when 20 troops surrounded them.
He says: ‘That they had all their gear and their weapons out pointing them at me. I informed them, ‘I don’t give up to you and if you wish to kill me then do it, however not in entrance of my son.’
‘They took my son into one among their navy autos. So I mentioned, ‘OK then, if there are any males amongst you then let’s go to the aspect and we’ll settle this like males – fist on fist.’
Alexi pictured with an area deer he rescued and hand reared when she was deserted by her mom
After a freezing 30-minute stand-off – nonetheless in his pants – the troops lastly let him and his son go. However they stole the quad bike and took away his cell phone. The invaders additionally got here and snatched his black Mitsubishi Colt SUV, which he later discovered with the letter V painted on it – the image used on all Russian navy autos throughout Putin’s push for Kyiv.
Because the occupation wore on, Alexi mentioned he needed to kill two of his goats to feed Dara. Then he took one other journey out to the checkpoints to plead for mercy for his hungry animals.
‘I used to be arguing with the troopers after which I heard this loud engine sound,’ he recollects.
‘I noticed this tank emerge from behind a constructing and cease proper in entrance of me. Then the turret began shifting. It swung spherical and it was pointing proper at me. My palms had been sweating and my coronary heart was beating so quick. I used to be saying ‘do not you see, my animals want meals’ however the troopers thought I used to be a loopy man. They simply informed me to go away.
Pictured: Simba the Lynx. Because the occupation wore on, Alexi mentioned he needed to kill two of his goats to feed Dara
There are Alexi’s 350 different animals that want taking care of, together with a loud macaque known as Bob (pictured), deer, rhea and peacocks
‘My neighbours had been saying to me ‘Alexi you will get your self killed if you happen to preserve happening like this’ however I did not care. That is my nation. I’m going wherever I wish to go and do no matter I wish to do. F*** these pigs who come right here and inform me what to do in my very own nation.’
Lastly, salvation got here when Ukraine’s navy pushed the Russian forces right into a humiliating retreat final month. The village was liberated and Alexi might breathe a sigh of aid.
His household have since fled to Belarus and intend to go to Poland to see out the conflict. However Alexi is busy dreaming up grand plans for the way forward for his dacha.
‘Who is aware of? Possibly I’ll get one other tiger now,’ he laughs.