A British father-of-two, described as someone that “would help anyone”, was killed by a landmine while trying to save injured soldiers in Ukraine. Viktor Yatsunyk, 44, was originally born in Ukraine and had joint British-Ukrainian nationality. He had returned to his native country in March to help fight off the tyrannical invasion of Vladimir Putin.
When he died, he was racing to the frontline with fellow soldiers as they sought to help wounded comrades near the recently reclaimed city of Izyum. He is now the fourth Briton to have died in the conflict.
His loved ones spoke of Mr Yatsunyk’s bravery and labelled him a “hero”, with close friend Roman, 45, telling the Sun that the soldier “was like my brother”.
He had met Mr Yatsunyk over 20 years ago during a Ukrainian ex-pats trip in Scotland in 1998. Roman added: “He told me, “If we don’t fight, who will fight for us?” He was an honest person who would help anyone, he had a good heart.”
Mr Yatsunyk died when a landmine triggered as they ran to help their comrades. The explosion set off a second landmine, the explosion of which killed another of their group and wounded three others.
Roman added to iNews: “When the war started he just said yes, I’m going. He was really patriotic about Ukraine. He was really brave. First of all he went there as a volunteer, then he asked the British Army and he joined the Ukrainian Army straight away.
“When the war started, he said, ‘I’m going to Ukraine’. When people said it’s dangerous he said ‘I’m still going’ and nobody could stop him. We understood he was going to help voluntarily to teach the Ukrainian soldiers how to fight. With his knowledge from the British Army he taught a lot of Ukrainian soldiers.”
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The father-of-two, who lived in Oxfordshire, is believed to have spent four years as a reservist in the British Army and had lived in the UK for more than 20 years. US military veteran and friend of Mr Yatsunyk added that news of his death was “the most painful day of my life”.
He tweeted: “My good friend Viktor (the Brit) was killed in action while evacuating wounded men. He died a hero and took a piece of my heart with him.”
Roman revealed that just weeks before his death, Mr Yatsunyk made a lucky escape when a missile hit his camp, killing one of his comrades just metres away. His good friend’s last message to him had been asking for help in ordering parts for military drones, his focus still square on defending Ukraine.
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In an interview this month Mr Yatsunyk said he had signed a contract with the Ukrainian military, adding that his time in war was “long and dangerous”.
Speaking of how he has passed on his British Army training to help train Ukrainian forces, he said: “Most of the soliders here don’t have experience in the army. Everyone wants to fight, but you need to teach them how to fight, most of all how to survive.”
Mr Yatsunyk’s wife has flown to Ukraine despite the ongoing conflict to collect her husband’s body, with a funeral expected later this week.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are reaching out to the family of a British man who has died in Ukraine and stand ready to provide consular support.”