(Kyiv) Thousands of people, including the Ukrainian head of state, paid tribute on Friday in Kyiv to “Da Vinci”, a war hero killed by the Russians during the battle of Bakhmout, the hottest point on the eastern front from Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin also made a surprise appearance on the occasion in Independence Square in the center of the capital.
Dmytro “Da Vinci” Kotsiubailo was a 27-year-old volunteer who led a battalion called the Da Vinci Wolves.
He took up arms in 2014 to fight Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
President Zelensky announced his death in a video address on Tuesday.
For his feats of arms, Dmytro “Da Vinci” Kotsiubailo was the youngest fighter to have received from President Zelensky, in December 2021, the Hero of Ukraine medal, the country’s highest honor.
“Difficult road to victory”
Present on the spot, the chief of staff of the armies, Valery Zaluzhny, knelt near the coffin.
“The road to our victory is very difficult. And the price of this victory is the lives of our warriors, the best Ukrainian citizens who defended the country with arms in hand,” he said.
“You have to be sure that we won’t just avenge you. We will definitely achieve victory. Sleep in peace, my friend,” the military leader added.
People dressed in mourning, carrying flowers and waving Ukrainian flags, marched down the hill to the iconic Maidan Square. Many wept as they passed his open coffin.
“We feel enormous grief. Grief and pain that our young men like him are dying,” said Liudmyla, a pensioner, carrying a bouquet of tulips.
“I didn’t know him personally but I respect him enormously for what he has done for his country. I am proud to belong to a country that has citizens like him,” said Valentyn Demenyuk, a law student wearing a scarf in the colors of the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine.
Father and son killed in Bakhmout
Earlier in the day, hundreds of people paid their last respects to a father and son also killed in the battle for Bakhmout.
Oleg Khomiouk, 52, and his son Mykyta, 25, had gone to fight as volunteers at the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022. Both died on March 2 in the same trench, according to their family.
During a bombardment, the father wanted to cover his son with his body, but a shell exploded near their heads, killing the two men, said during the ceremony a member of their family, Iouri Samson, in uniform. camouflage, wiping his eyes during his speech.
Next to it, baskets of roses and carnations were placed, adorned with ribbons reading “to a dear grandson” and “to my dear son Oleg, from mum.”
Wreaths of flowers, crossed out with the inscription “Heroes do not die”, were also placed nearby.
One soldier played a low tune from his trumpet, while another beat the drum as the coffins were carried by servicemen.
The Khomyuks joined the Territorial Defense to defend Kyiv, then fought in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions before ending up in Donbass.
Ukraine has not revealed its human losses since the start of the Russian invasion.
The latest Western estimate to date, Norwegian Chief of Staff Eirik Kristoffersen said in January that the war in Ukraine has left nearly 180,000 dead or wounded in the ranks of the Russian army and “probably beyond the 100,000 dead and wounded” among the Ukrainian military, a toll to which he added 30,000 civilians killed.