Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has posthumously honored the soldier Oleksandr Matsiyevsky, who was seen saying “glory to Ukraine” moments before he was shot dead in a video that went viral on social media.
In his nightly address on Sunday, March 12, Zelensky said he had awarded the Hero of Ukraine medal to Matsiyevsky, a sniper from the 163rd Battalion of the 119th Territorial Defense Brigade of Chernihiv.
The Hero of Ukraine is the highest national title that can be conferred on a person by the president.
Matsiyevsky’s unit and his family identified him after a graphic video circulated on March 6 showing a uniformed man standing next to a freshly dug pit smoking a cigarette. He looks at the camera and says “Slava Ukraini” – “glory to Ukraine” – before being shot multiple times by someone off-camera. People cursing at him in Russian can be heard in the footage.
The source of the 12-second video has not been publicly identified, but the owner of a Telegram channel that posted the video early in the day told Storyful that the footage was recovered from the phone of a dead Russian soldier.
The Ukrainian man in the video was first named incorrectly as Tymofiy Shadura of the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade, whose unit said he was last seen in the Bakhmut area in early February. The unit warned that the full identification could only be complete once his body was returned.
The next day, Matsiyevsky’s unit identified him as the man in the footage, and journalist Yuriy Butusov gave a detailed explanation about why he also believed the man seen in the video was Matsiyevsky.
Butusov posted a photograph of Matsiyevsky taken 10 days before his capture by Russian forces, which shows a bandage above his right eye, also seen on the man in the video.
An electrician before the war, 42-year-old Matsiyevsky was deployed to the Bakhmut area in the autumn and went missing north of the city in December. He last spoke to his mother on December 29, and was killed near Soledar on December 30, according to the Ukrainian military. Four of his fellow soldiers also disappeared on the mission, public broadcaster Suspilne reported.
Zelensky described Matsiyevsky as “a man who will be known to all Ukrainians. A man who will be remembered forever – for his courage, for his confidence in Ukraine, and for his ‘Glory to Ukraine’.”
Matsiyevsky’s body was returned to Ukrainian forces in a swap for Russian soldiers’ remains in January. He was buried near his home in Nizhyn, Chernihiv Oblast, on February 14. Credit: Volodymyr Zelensky via Storyful