Top Ukrainian commander, famed for fighting alongside his troops, killed in action near Bakhmut
- Colnel Serhii Ilnytskyi, a commander who fought alongside his soldiers, has died in battle.
- He was described as an "outstanding" leader.
Ukrainian soldiers and civilians mourned an "outstanding"" commander killed in Russia's war against Ukraine at a funeral in Kyiv, the Kyiv Independent reports.
Colonel Serhii Ilnytskyi was killed in combat for Kurdiumivka, a Donetsk town seven miles south of Bakhmut. The town is currently contested territory where Ukraine has been slowly advancing in recent weeks.
The 53-year-old, whose call sign was "Sokil" ("falcon" in English), was the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army and oversaw its operations in the Bakhmut area.
Despite his high rank, Ilnytskyi was esteemed for fighting alongside his troops in the heat of battle, to give them courage and belief.
"He didn't send people off into battle. He took them with him. He would do everything so that his guys would not be afraid, Serhii Bratchuk, the volunteer army's Southern Division spokesperson, told the Kyiv Independent.
"There was one story where new recruits were in a very difficult situation, under fire. I don't want to say they were afraid, but anyway, he found the right words, the guys didn't retreat, and even went forward and took new positions back from the enemy,"
Ilnytskyi was "a big reason why this volunteer spirit remained in Ukraine. The volunteer movement of those days hasn't died, it just operates under the Ukrainian armed forces," said Bratchuk.
The Ukrainian Volunteer Army wrote on X (formerly Twitter): "RIP to our beloved Serhii Ilnytskyi "Sokil" that was such an outstanding commander of the South Detachment."
Before the full-scale invasion, Ilyntskyi served as a member of the Kyiv City Council in the European Solidarity party.
Ilyntskyi was a career soldier from before Ukraine achieved independence until 2014, when he left due to health issues. He joined the volunteer army when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
"In the army they say that 'colonels don't run around;' they sit in the rear and do other jobs, which I guess is a good thing," said Bratchuk, "but he was not like that."
On top of his military and political careers, Ilyntskyi was a decorated athlete. He represented Ukraine at the 2018 Invictus Games for wounded veterans in Sydney, Australia, where he won gold in indoor rowing.
Large crowds gathered in Kyiv on August 28 to commemorate Ilnytskyi on the day of his funeral.
The ceremony took place at St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, after which the procession walked to the city's Independence Square—Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Ilnytskyi's Invictus medal was on display, alongside several other honours for outstanding military service.
The exact circumstances of his death have not been publicized.
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