By Ed Cullinane via SWNS
This picture from Ukraine of two stork eggs nested by its sacred bird after thousands were killed by Russian bombs has become a "symbol of hope" for the country.
The new nest comes as the species has repeatedly faced missiles and artillery strikes in the shell-shattered outskirts of Kyiv.
Putin launched his invasion just as they were arriving to deliver their chicks - forcing some to abandon their young or nest elsewhere.
But ten miles outside Kyiv in the shattered town of Moshchun images show one set of storks that have set up home among the ruins.
Storks are a 'sacred' bird in Ukraine where they nest in the spring after wintering in Africa.
The birds are seen as a symbol of the start of spring in the country along with an age-old symbol of fertility.
The birds are also seen as promoting "a big harvest as well as family happiness, procreation, cessation of conflicts and love for the homeland."
Of 224,000 storks that visit Europe every year, 16 percent pitch their nests in Ukraine during spring and summer.
Images show their huge nests abandoned on the top of telephone poles and electricity pylons in the face of Russian shelling.
Pictures of the birds taken by the Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds (USPB) showed the hellish conditions the birds had to survive in during the war.
USPB director Oleg Dudkin explained: "This year the horrific explosions, shelling, gunfire and the roar of tanks frightened the storks and so they took off and flew away.
"This couple was lucky to arrive late, when the invaders retreated and silence had fallen on the mother bird's small homeland.
"She has come to symbolize not merely a mother's devotion to her young but also the great love and devotion of Ukrainians to their motherland and a readiness not to leave, even if it is being destroyed by this terrible war."
Ukrainians have even taken to treating the birds like fellow refugees, helping support the birds after exhausting flights to escape the warzone.
Some birds have begun to return to their usual nesting areas though, bringing hope to Ukrainians living in the aftermath of the Russian invasion.
Oleg added: "The storks returned a few days after the Russian troops left the village and immediately began to rearrange their usual nesting place.
"Somehow, the storks seemed to feel that the village was quiet and now they could return home.
"One tired and exhausted stork was seen sitting on the bonnet of a car caught up in a large traffic jam during the massive evacuation from the Chernihiv region.
"The bird was trying to drink water from a cup it could see through the windscreen standing on the dashboard.
"Thoughtfully, the driver raised his cup to the stork through an open window and the thirsty bird began to drink, paying no attention to the people getting out of their cars to take pictures.
“Storks will always be amulet birds for Ukrainians, strengthening the hope for peace and the inevitable victory of spring over winter and good over evil.”
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