The first American, and first foreigner, has died in the Eastern Ukraine battle zone. A man known only by his war name of Franko traveled to Donbass and assumed Ukrainian citizenship. The Donbass unit on the Ukrainian side is an all volunteer unit and since he was of Ukrainian decent, could assume Ukrainian citizenship.
Franko was interviewed by Vice News earlier this month. When asked what the Donbass group aimed to accomplish, he said, "I think that, initially, their intent is to go out there and kill these terrorists that have invaded Ukraine but what we have learned along the way is that before you get to kill these terrorists, you have to learn how to be a soldier and I think that has been the most difficult thing for them, whereas for me, having served in a professional military, I understand what that entails." Though he has military experience, he insisted on joining the volunteer unit as a private.
It appears Franko died in Ilovaisk in the Donetsk region. He reportedly "died from heavy artillery fire." Maks Levin, a photographer on the scene, wrote "There is no way for them to get out of Ilovask." Four Donbass volunteer soldiers may have died during this incident.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.