Ukraine war latest: Authorities identify defiant Ukrainian POW executed by Russians
Key developments on March 12:
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on March 12 confirmed the identity of a Ukrainian soldier executed by Russians after saying, “Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine),” a Ukrainian national salute. The execution was filmed and the video of it started circulating on social media on March 6.
For days, the speculations went on about the identity of the soldier in the video, as well as when and where the execution had taken place. The unknown soldier was praised for the calmness he displayed when facing the execution.
Law enforcement on March 12 finally confirmed that the man captured in the video was Oleksandr Matsiyevsky, a sniper from the 163rd Battalion of the 119th Territorial Defense Brigade of Chernihiv Oblast.
The SBU said it had conducted a forensic portrait examination of Matsievsky and contacted the soldier’s relatives.
According to the SBU, Matsiyevsky went missing near Krasna Hora, just north of the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast in December 2022. The soldier was reportedly killed on Dec. 30, and his body was returned to his family in February.
"This is a real hero who, even facing death, demonstrated to the whole world what Ukrainian character and resilience are,” the SBU Head Vasyl Malyuk said.
The official said that the SBU is working on identifying the Russians responsible for killing Matsiyevsky.
President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded the Hero of Ukraine title to Matsiyevsky.
“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’,” Zelensky said.
Family mourns the fallen hero
Matsiyevsky’s mother told Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne that she immediately recognized her son in the grainy video, especially in the way he was smoking.
Matsiyevsky, 42, worked as an electrician in Kyiv.
When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, he immediately joined the Territorial Defense forces in the city of Nizhyn in the northern Chernihiv Oblast, where his family lived, and defended the region with his comrades from the 119th Brigade.
In late 2022, his unit was deployed to Donetsk Oblast. He kept it from his mother that he would be deployed to one of the hottest areas of the front line – to Soledar, a salt-mining city near Bakhmut that fell to Russian forces in mid-January after weeks of brutal battles in the area, Suspilne reported.
Matsiyevsky’s mother last spoke to him on Dec. 29, a day before the SBU said he was killed by Russians.
In February, his body was buried at a cemetery in Nizhyn with other fallen members of the Territorial Defense forces.
Ukraine condemned the killing of Matsiyevsky, with ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets saying that the alleged execution of a captured Ukrainian soldier is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Battle for Bakhmut continues
As of March 11, fierce fighting continued in and around Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian officials and Western observers.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a D.C.-based think-tank analyzing the war in Ukraine, said on March 11 that Russia had not made any confirmed advances over the past day.
It predicted that Russia’s Wagner Group fighters might be “increasingly pinned” in urban areas, such as the AZOM industrial complex, and therefore “finding it difficult to make significant advances.”
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Military Command, said on March 12 that Russia attacked the Bakhmut area 39 times over the past day. He claimed that Ukraine inflicted significant personnel losses on the Russians.
As the battle for Bakhmut rages on, the civilian toll is growing in Donetsk Oblast.
The National Police of Ukraine reported on March 12 that Russia had launched 48 attacks against civilians in Donetsk Oblast over the past day with S-300 missiles, aircraft, Grad and Uragan multiple rocket launchers, artillery, mortars, and tanks.
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in his daily briefing on March 12 that two civilians were killed and four were wounded over the past day.