Volodymyr Zelensky awards highest military honour to soldier executed on video


Volodymyr Zelensky awarded a top military honour to the Ukrainian sniper and prisoner of war Oleksandr Matsiyevsky who was shot down by Russian-speaking forces as captured in a widely circulated video.

The man was heard chanting “Slava Ukraini” or “glory to Ukraine” as his last words before multiple shots from an unseen shooter or shooters behind the video camera claimed his life, leading to widespread condemnation of the alleged war crime.

“I conferred the title of Hero of Ukraine upon Oleksandr Matsiyevsky. A Ukrainian warrior. A man who will be known and remembered forever. For his bravery, for his confidence in Ukraine and for his “Glory to Ukraine!” Glory to the Hero! Glory to the Heroes! Glory to Ukraine!” Mr Zelensky said late on Sunday in his nightly address.

The Soviet-era Hero of Ukraine medal is the country’s highest national title conferred upon citizen, according to Kyiv.

The Ukrainian defence ministry confirmed the correct identity of the man on Sunday after he was previously incorrectly identified as a troop of another battalion last week.

“The @ServiceSsu [Security Service of Ukraine]  has confirmed the identity of the Hero who was shot in cold blood after saying “Glory to Ukraine!”. The investigators have established that the Ukrainian soldier who appeared in the horrific video was a sniper of the 119th Brigade @TDF_UA, Oleksandr Matsiyevsky,” the ministry said on Twitter.

Senior Ukrainian officials had previously stated that the man killed was an unarmed prisoner of war slain by Russian forces.

In the 12-second video, a man donning a military uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm is seen standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area as he chants “Slava Ukraini!” – a popular war-time slogan cheering for Ukraine.

As bullets appear to hit his body, he slumps to the ground in a graphic video and a voice is heard saying “Die, b****” in Russian.

The video documenting the man’s killing in the continuing invasion sparked an outcry, prompting Mr Zelensky to issue a call of unity and ask for the soldier’s last words to be echoed.

“I want us all together, in unity, to respond to (the soldier’s) words: “Glory to the hero! Glory to heroes! Glory to Ukraine!” And we will find the killers,” he said after the video went viral.

The phrase “Glory to Ukraine” and the response “Heroyam Slava”, or “Glory to the Heroes”, has been a hallmark of post-Soviet Ukraine, but it has taken on special significance as a common greeting in public life since the start of the war last year.

Journalists covering the war confirmed the top military honour awarded posthumously to Matsiyevsky.

“President Zelensky has posthumously awarded Ukraine’s highest honour to the soldier who used his last breath to tell his Russian executioners, ‘Slava Ukraini’,” said journalist Christopher Miller, who is covering the war in Ukraine.

“We now know the name of this man. Oleksandr Matsiyevsky, a sniper of Chernihiv territorial defence brigade. He went MIA [missing in action] in late December 2022, and according to Ukrainian officials, was killed by Russians just before New Year. He has been posthumously awarded Hero of Ukraine. RIP,” said Ukraine-based journalist Olga Tokariuk.

Ukrainian prosecutor general Andriy Kostin said that the war-hit country’s security service had registered the shooting as a criminal case under a part of the criminal code covering violations of war laws and customs.

The country, along with its allies in the West, has reiterated through the course of war that there is evidence for thousands of war crimes committed in Ukraine after Russian launched a full-scale invasion of the country.

Mr Zelensky has vowed to take Russia to the international court over its alleged thousands of war crimes on Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine War 24

Ukraine War 24

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