NIZHYN, Ukraine - A Ukrainian soldier who was posthumously awarded a medal after a widely shared video showed him declaring "Glory to Ukraine" before apparently being shot dead, was commemorated with a statue in his northern hometown on Saturday.
The video shared in March showed a man the military later named as Oleksandr Matsievskiy, a sniper with a unit from the region of Chernihiv, saying "Slava Ukraini," a phrase more than a century old that has become a popular expression of resistance to Russia's February 2022 invasion.
Standing smoking a cigarette in a wooded area, carrying no visible weaponry, Matsievskiy is then seen slumping to the ground, apparently struck repeatedly by unseen shooters.
Kyiv blamed "brutal and brazen" Russians for his death, as did his mother Paraska Demchuk, 68.
"He would have taken all of them with him if he had a grenade," she said, as she proudly showed the medal President Volodymyr Zelenskiy bestowed on her son representing the "Hero of Ukraine" honour.
"He would say to me, 'Mum, I will never let them capture me'," she said through tears. "He wouldn't just bandy words about. It was on the inside, it was like a core inside him," she said.
Kyiv has opened a criminal investigation into the death of Matsievskiy, who was quickly talked of as a hero on social media, where many supporters posted the words "Heroyam Slava," or "Glory to the Heroes," the traditional response to Slava Ukraini.
(Additional reporting by Max Hunder and Nick Starkov; writing by Elaine Monaghan; Editing by Hugh Lawson)