KYIV, Ukraine — Dmytro Kotsiubailo was a thin teenager when he took to the barricades in Kyiv’s Independence Sq. 9 years in the past, becoming a member of 1000’s of Ukrainians demanding to be handled with dignity and free of the yoke of Russia.
On Friday, he was returned to that very same sq. in an open coffin, as 1000’s of Ukrainians gathered to pay tribute to the boy who grew to become a embellished soldier and a logo of Ukrainian resistance.
Mr. Kotsiubailo was higher identified by his call-sign, Da Vinci, given to him as a result of he as soon as dreamed of being an artist. However he by no means obtained the prospect: Quickly after collaborating within the protests often called the Maidan Revolution, he joined Ukraine’s Military to battle a Russian-backed rebel in jap Ukraine. He was solely 18 years outdated.
Over time “Da Vinci” grew to become one among Ukraine’s best-known fighters and a battalion commander. He was killed close to Bakhmut on March 7, mortally wounded in a Russian assault. He was 27 years outdated.
Whereas Mr. Kotsiubailo was one among the many 1000’s of Ukrainian troopers killed within the battle with Russia, his story has struck a deep chord in a war-weary nation that stands united behind its troopers combating on the entrance strains.
“It hurts to lose our heroes,” President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned as he joined the nation in mourning Mr. Kotsiubailo, whose memorial was broadcast reside on nationwide tv. In talking concerning the soldier’s dying earlier this week, Mr. Zelensky famous how “Da Vinci” had been “defending our independence and the dignity of our folks since 2014.”
By the point Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Mr. Kotsiubailo was already an skilled veteran, the youngest battalion commander within the Ukrainian navy. In 2021 he grew to become one of many youngest ever volunteer troopers to be named a “Hero of Ukraine” for valor on the battlefield.
In an interview with the Ukrainian publication Censor.net earlier than his dying, Mr. Kotsiubailo described combating to cease the Russian advance in southern Ukraine, being greeted with flowers as he rolled into newly liberated villages in Ukraine’s northeast and the hazard posed by Russian forces regardless of their setbacks on the battlefield.
“Russians can’t be underestimated,” he mentioned. “Sure, they’re damaged, however they nonetheless have sources — human, tools, and weapons.”
Mr. Zelensky, Ukraine’s protection minister and the highest commander of the armed forces joined the crowds on the soldier’s funeral at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, the majestic church in central Kyiv the place funerals for troopers have change into a grim each day ritual. The gang swelled because the coffin was taken to Independence Sq., identified merely as Maidan.
One after the other, folks filed previous. Many left flowers and a few paused to say just a few phrases. “Thanks for every part,” a weeping lady cried. A soldier vowed vengeance, telling President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “to place a bullet in your head.”
The gang chanted “Glory to Ukraine,” adopted by silence, then extra chants of “Dying to the enemy, dying, dying, dying” and “Glory to the hero of Ukraine.”
In an interview with Radio Liberty earlier than his dying, Mr. Kotsiubailo defined why he selected to battle for his nation.
“So long as there may be hazard,” he mentioned, “I think about it my civic obligation to guard it with a weapon in hand.”