Mom of Executed Soldier Says Ukraine Must Continue to Fight in Bakhmut

  • The mother of a Ukrainian soldier who was executed said Ukraine must continue to defend Bakhmut.
  • Paraska Demchuk told NBC News that the thousands of casualties in Bakhmut can’t have been “in vain.”
  • The bloody battle of Bakhmut rages on, even in spite of the city’s relative strategic unimportance. 

It was Paraska Demchuk’s — and indeed, any mother’s — worst nightmare.

While scrolling on social media one day, Demchuk stumbled upon a photo of her son, she told NBC News; the image was taken from a viral video of his execution.

Oleksandr Matsievsky, 42, was killed by Russian forces on December 30, near the frontlines of fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian security sources.

A video of the soldier’s execution went viral in early March, showing Matsievsky’s final moments as he smoked a cigarette in the Ukrainian woods. He shouted, “glory to Ukraine!” in the seconds before he was annihilated by gunfire. 

“In the end, he understood he couldn’t do anything. He had no weapon, no grenade, no gun. But he had these words,” Demchuk told NBC from her home outside Kyiv. 

Demchuk immediately identified her son in the video, despite initial, incorrect reports regarding the video’s subject. His body was returned home and his family buried him in his native Nizhyn, Demchuk told Suspilne media. The Ukrainian security services later confirmed that Matsievsky was the prisoner of war in the video, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posthumously granted him the Hero of Ukraine award. 

But Matsievsky was just one of the thousands of casualties in the months-long, brutal battle of Bakhmut, which rages on more than three months after his death. The death toll continues to mount in the one-time mining town, despite its relative strategic unimportance to either Russia or Ukraine.


Capturing the city would afford Russia only a minor geographic advantage; the city itself is entirely decimated following months of attrition warfare. Neither side wants to give the other a decisive morale boost or symbolic win, but military experts and intelligence analysts are increasingly concerned that Ukraine has wasted precious resources on a hopeless fight.

International doubts over both sides’ commitment to Bakhmut come even as Kyiv insists that the future of the war depends on the defense of the city. 

Demchuk recently echoed Zelenskyy’s recent assertion that Bakhmut not be abandoned.

“We have no other option but to continue fighting,” Demchuk told NBC News. “All this blood that was lost cannot be lost in vain. We need to continue defending ourselves.”

But the tides may finally be turning for Russia, who has regained some momentum in recent days, according to UK intelligence, which said the Russian military has likely advanced into the town center and put previous internal struggles on the back burner to focus on securing a victory.

The Ukrainian military said in a Friday update that battles in and around Bakhmut continue even as Russia tries to take “full control.” Even Zelenskyy’s rhetoric around retreating has softened in recent days, with the president acknowledging that Ukrainian troops could pull out if they’re at risk of being encircled entirely. 

Concerns around Ukraine’s persistence in Bakhmut center around a much-anticipated spring offensive the country hopes to execute, which will inevitably require troops that are, most importantly, still alive.

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