A Memphis native fighting alongside Ukraine soldiers is the latest American killed by Russian-backed militias in the hotly contested Donbas region of the besieged country, the State Department confirmed.
Oleg Kozhemyako, governor of Russia’s eastern Primorsky Krai region, said on Telegram that volunteers from Primorsky “Tiger” Detachment had killed a 24-year-old Memphis-born man in combat. Kozhemyako said the American was killed “literally immediately after arriving at the front line.”
Militia officers in the Donetsk People’s Republic said the U.S. national, whom they named, was killed in combat on Tuesday. The State Department declined to confirm the American’s identity.
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“We can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine,” the State Department said in an email to USA TODAY. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family, we have no further comment at this time.”
The American was killed in Yegorovka on Aug. 23, DPR spokesperson Darya Morozova said.
“Fleeing Ukrainian militants left his body on the battlefield,” Morozova said. “Documents identifying the killed person … were found on him.”
The posts included photos of a U.S. passport and Ukrainian ID. Morozova said the DPR was prepared to hand his body over to his family.
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Russia and the separatist militias it backs in eastern Ukraine say foreign soldiers are not protected by international humanitarian law, nor are such individuals entitled to combatant immunity. Morozova urged all foreigners arriving in Ukraine for military purposes to leave the country as soon as possible, “otherwise, no one would guarantee their safety.”
Americans Luke Lucyszyn, 31, from South Carolina, and Californian Bryan Young, 51, were among several foreign fighters killed last month in eastern Ukraine when they were fired on by a Russian tank. U.S. Marine veteran Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces in late April.
British nationals Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin as well as Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, all captured in Donbass, were sentenced to death for participating in combat in Ukraine as mercenaries. Those sentences have been appealed. Several other foreign fighters are on trial or awaiting trial and also could face capital punishment.