Vasya, the Ukrainian reconnaissance dog. Photo: Olena Bilozerska FB 

War in Donbas

Article by: Christine Chraibi
Vasya, a Ukrainian reconnaissance dog, fell into a trap in Russian-occupied Donbas. Rescuing him was going to be a risky challenge for Ukrainian soldiers. But then Vasya made an unthinkable sacrifice to get free.

This is the moving story of Vasya, a Cane Corso (Italian breed of mastiff), who served for many years in a marine corps reconnaissance platoon of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It was told by Olena Bilozerska, a former journalist who is now a soldier.

Vasya went through special schooling at different military training grounds, field duty and worked in different sectors. For months, he lived in a dugout along with other soldiers. He was their friend, mascot and a valuable reconnaissance dog.

One day Vasya disappeared. Some servicemen set out to look for him. They finally launched a drone and saw that Vasya had fallen into a trap in the enemy zone. The poor dog had become entangled in barbed wire just in front of the trenches manned by the Russian-backed militants.

It was virtually impossible to organize a rescue team, because Vasya was on enemy territory and it was way too difficult to move across that terrain unnoticed. However, the Ukrainian team refused to give up and discussed how best to rescue their four-legged friend.

But, Vasya beat them to the punch!

Believe it or not, he chewed off his paw and returned home on three legs! Vasya refused to remain in captivity and preferred to maim himself rather than to be shot or taken prisoner.


Vasya is evacuated by his soldier friends. Photo: Olena Bilozerska

Our hero Vasya has been honourabley discharged. He is now enjoying well-deserved retirement in the village home of his handler’s parents.

Dogs used in warfare have made huge contributions to many conflicts. The relationship and bonding between a dog and its handler remains the key to a dog’s ability as a war dog.

The frontline in the Donbas is populated not only by Ukrainian soldiers, but also by dogs, cats and other friendly creatures.

Many of them have been adopted by the soldiers as pets, companions, good comfort animals, guards or simply friendly neighbours. Others are professionally trained and used in reconnaissance and demining operations.


Vasya is now enjoying retirement in his new village home. Photo: Olena Bilozerska

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