Wednesday, 20 August 2014

American Donbas Battalion member dies in fierce fighting near Donetsk

An American-Ukrainian known only as "Franko" died on Aug. 19 while fighting with the Donbas Battalion in an attempt to free the city of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast from Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed guerrillas.
An American has reportedly become the first foreign casualty on the Ukrainian side of the military conflict against Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. 
Identified only under his nom de guerre of "Franko", he reportedly died from heavy artillery fire while trying to free the town of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 19 while serving in the volunteer Donbas Battalion, Liviy Bereg photographer Maks Levin stated on Facebook, citing another photographer, Maks Dondiuk, who has embedded himself in various Ukrainian service units.
According to the photographer, the Donbas Battalion, had come under heavy fire by various barrages of GRAD, Fagot and other types of artillery, in addition to tank and sniper fire.
“There is no way for them to get out of Ilovask,” wrote Levin citing his colleague. He added that two other volunteer battalions, Azov and Dnipro, managed to leave the area earlier in the day.
Both photographers, Levin and Dondiuk, have been embedded with various Ukrainian units, including the Donbas Battalion. 
The facebook page of Donbass Battalion stated that four of its members died in the fighting, while the number of wounded is still being clarified. Among the wounded was battalion leader Semyon Semenchenko. He underwent surgery in a Dnipropetrovsk hospital and is expected to recover in two to three weeks, the statement said.
In a Vice News report in which he featured prominently, Franko said he was a private in a six-man squad within the battalion, while claiming to have “professional military experience.” His code name apparently was inspired by the famed Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. In the video, he speaks with what sounds like an east coast American accent and appears to be aged in his 60s. He emphasized in the interview that he had taken on Ukrainian citizenship before joining the fight in the east. According to photographer Levin, Franko owned property in Ukraine and may have lived in the country.
He was a “cheerful diaspora (member)…who beautifully cursed in Ukrainian,” remarked Levin. He added that Franko wished to “enter Donetsk (as a liberator) and to return to Kyiv, sell his apartment in Lviv and settle somewhere in the calm Carpathian Mountains.”
The Donbas Battalion was formed early in June. At least 80 percent of its members are from eastern Ukraine. According to the Interior Ministry to which the irregular volunteer battalions are subordinated, 25 battalions are currently engaged in the war zone in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Franko told Vice News that he assumed Ukrainian citizenship before joining the Donbas Battalion to fight against the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Maks Levin)

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