(Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy bestowed posthumously the honour of “Hero of Ukraine” on Sunday on a soldier who defiantly said “Glory to Ukraine” before being seen to be shot dead in a video posted on social media.
Ukraine’s military, on its Telegram channel, had earlier confirmed the identity of the soldier as Oleksandr Matsievskiy, a sniper with a unit from the northern region of Chernihiv.
“Today, I have bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine on soldier Oleskandr Matsievskiy,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
“A man that all Ukrainians will know. A man who will be forever remembered. For his bravery, for his confidence in Ukraine and for his ‘Glory to Ukraine’.”
The apparently unarmed man in a uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm was shown in a video smoking a cigarette and saying “Slava Ukraini” – or “Glory to Ukraine” – before apparently being shot dead. A voice off camera then says, in Russian, “Die, bitch.”
Germany’s Bild newspaper said its reporter spoke to Matsievekiy’s mother, Paraska, who was quoted as saying: “He stood there unarmed, but proud to be Ukrainian. He was always incredibly brave. At this moment, the only weapon he could defend himself with was to say: ‘Slava Ukraini!'”
The term “Glory to Ukraine” is more than a century old but came into general use after Ukraine won independence from Soviet rule.
It has been in widespread use as a greeting during the war, always drawing the response “Heroyam Slava” (“Glory to the Heroes”).
(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Nick Starkov; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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