Identified only under his nom de guerre of “Franko”, he reportedly
died from heavy artillery fire while trying to free the town of Ilovaisk in
Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 19 while serving in the volunteer Donbas Battalion,
Liviy Bereg photographer Maks
Levin stated on Facebook
, citing another photographer, Maks Dondiuk, who has embedded himself in various Ukrainian
service units.

According to the
photographer, the Donbas Battalion, had come under heavy fire by various
barrages of GRAD, Fagot and other types of artillery, in addition to tank and
sniper fire.

“There is no way for
them to get out of Ilovask,” wrote Levin citing his colleague. He added that two
other volunteer battalions, Azov and Dnipro, managed to leave the area earlier in the day.


Both photographers, Levin and Dondiuk, have been embedded with various Ukrainian units, including the Donbas Battalion. 

The facebook page of Donbass Battalion stated that four of its members died in the fighting, while the number of wounded is still being clarified. Among the wounded was battalion leader Semyon
Semenchenko. He underwent surgery in a Dnipropetrovsk hospital and is expected to recover in two to three weeks, the statement said.

In a Vice News
in which he featured prominently, Franko said he was a private in a
six-man squad within the battalion, while claiming to have “professional
military experience.” His code name apparently was inspired by the famed Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. In the video, he speaks
with what sounds like an east coast American accent and appears to be aged in
his 60s. He emphasized in the interview that he had taken on Ukrainian
citizenship before joining the fight in the east. According to photographer
Levin, Franko owned property in Ukraine and may have lived in the country.

Franko told Vice News that he assumed Ukrainian citizenship before joining the Donbas Battalion to fight against the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Maks Levin)

He was a “cheerful
diaspora (member)…who beautifully cursed in Ukrainian,” remarked Levin. He
added that Franko wished to “enter Donetsk (as a liberator) and to return to
Kyiv, sell his apartment in Lviv and settle somewhere in the calm Carpathian


The Donbas Battalion was
formed early in June. At least 80 percent of its members are from eastern
Ukraine. According to the Interior Ministry to which the irregular volunteer battalions
are subordinated, 25 battalions are currently engaged in the war zone in
Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached
at [email protected].

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