A Ukrainian soldier killed in Bakhmut is being hailed for his heroics and bravery, including by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Dmytro Kotsiubailo, 27, was killed in action on Tuesday according to Zelensky and other top officials. Going by the call sign “Da Vinci,” Kotsiubailo was commander of the First Mechanized Battalion known as “Da Vinci Wolves.”
“He has been defending our independence and the dignity of our people since 2014,” Zelensky said in a video appearing on Telegram and Twitter. “One of the youngest heroes of Ukraine. One of those whose personal history, character, and courage forever became the history, character and courage of Ukraine.”
Dmytro Kotsiubailo, 27, was reported by Ukrainian officials to have been killed by Russian forces near Bakhmut on Tuesday. Kotsiubailo, nicknamed “Da Vinci” due to his affinity for art, began fighting in 2014 and was made commander of his brigade shortly thereafter. He was given the title “Hero of Ukraine” in 2021 by President Volodymyr Zelensky. JARAMA/Ukraine Foreign Ministry
In 2021, Kotsiubailo became one of the youngest-ever Ukrainian servicemen to receive the designation of “Hero of Ukraine” due to his efforts to protect Ukrainian territory and sovereignty in 2014, the same year that Russia occupied Crimea.
He was just 15 years of age and took part in the EuroMaidan, the Kyiv Independent reported, following his joining of the Right Sector Ukrainian Volunteer Corps. He fought in the Donbas region.
The Right Sector, a Ukrainian nationalist movement, was reformatted into the 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade in November 2022.
He became a company commander in 2015, the Kyiv Post reported.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, tweeted that the deceased was “heavily wounded [in 2014] but came back to the frontlines to fight for freedom of his motherland.”
“As long as there is danger, I consider it my civic duty to protect it with a weapon in hand,” Kotsiubailo once told Radio Freedom during an interview.
He reportedly received the “Da Vinci” nickname due to his dream of becoming an artist.
Dmytro “Da Vinci” Kotsiubailo, Hero of Ukraine, died near Bakhmut.
Dmytro began defending Ukraine in 2014, after the Revolution of Dignity, when he was just 18. He was heavily wounded but came back to the frontlines to fight for freedom of his motherland.
Eternal glory to Hero. pic.twitter.com/qPzgnUHumq
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 7, 2023
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry referred to Kotsiubailo in a tweet as “a volunteer, a man of courage and devotion.”
“We will always remember our heroes,” the tweet said. “Eternal memory to all the brave defenders who gave their lives for Ukraine!”
Another Fallen Ukrainian
Kotsiubailo’s death follows that of slain countryman Timofiy Mykolajovich Shadura, a member of Ukraine’s 30th Prince Konstanty Ostrogski Mechanized Brigade who was allegedly executed by Russian fighters in Bakhmut.
Video appearing to broadcast Shadura’s execution as a Russian prisoner of war, following his saying “Glory to Ukraine,” was followed by his brigade confirming his identity on Tuesday.
“The command of the 30th separate mehanízovaní ким brigade and the hero’s brothers express sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. Revenge will be irreversible,” said a Facebook post. “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”
Bakhmut has routinely been described by both Ukrainians and Russians as a “meat grinder” due to the amount of fighting and bloodshed in the territory for months on end.
The BBC, citing statistics from Western officials, reported Tuesday that Russia has suffered between 20,000 and 30,000 casualties in Bakhmut since combat escalated last summer. It has led to the evacuation of some 90 percent of its pre-invasion population.
Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed in a news conference call that about 11,000 Ukrainian fighters—an increase of 40 percent compared to previous months—were killed in Bakhmut in the month of February, according to Russian state-owned media outlet Tass.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the mercenary Wagner Group, has remained consistently vocal about Bakhmut and its importance to Russia’s overarching special military operation. He has also clashed with Russian brass.
After proclaiming a sense of victory in recent weeks, Prigozhin has adjusted his tone. On Monday he said in an audio clip that he was “knocking on all doors and sounding the alarm about ammunition and reinforcements, as well as the need to cover our flanks.”
Zelensky has also remained steadfast in the territory’s importance, leaving open the option of retreat if necessary.
“It’s not a particularly big city,” Zelensky said February 20. “Like many others in the Donbas devastated by the Russians. It is important for us to protect it, but not at any cost, so that everyone dies. We will fight as long as it makes sense.”