A Ukrainian cat who went viral on TikTok has escaped to France and raised £7,000 for charities providing aid to animals caught up in the conflict.
Stepan the cat, whose Instagram account Loveyoustepan has 1.2 million followers, was forced to flee with his owner from their home in Kharkiv, north-east Ukraine, when Russia began shelling the city last month.
The 13-year-old feline’s owner Anna described the experience of being woken by explosions that shook the windows of her apartment – making her realise the war had come to their home on February 24.
In an Instagram post she said: “Shells hit the neighbouring houses every day, the houses burned before our eyes.
“Our house was also damaged on the eighth day as a shell flew into the neighbours’ balcony. (But) there was no fire. Thank God!”
After spending two nights in a basement she and Stepan were able to leave Kharkiv and travelled to Lviv on a 20-hour train journey.
From there they were able to cross the border to Poland after standing in line with more than 4,000 people for nine hours.
They were then offered help by the World Influencers and Bloggers Association to travel to France, where they will stay until the “day when we can return home”.
Since reaching France, Stepan’s owner has used social media to raise more than 10,035 US dollars (around £7,625) for five charities.
The money raised will be donated to Happy Paw, UAnimals, Mykolaiv Zoo, XII Months and Plyushka, to provide aid to animals affected by the war in Ukraine.
Anna said: “(This war is a) big tragedy for my country and people
“The World Influencers and Bloggers Association came up with the idea of fundraising and organised the process (and) we are very grateful for the UK people’s support.”