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West Point grad, Ukrainian private, dies in battle

Aug. 21, 2014 - 05:45PM   |  
Mark Paslavsky, a West Point grad and volunteer in the Ukraine army was killed in a street battle on Tuesday.
Mark Paslavsky, a West Point grad and volunteer in the Ukraine army was killed in a street battle on Tuesday. (Via Facebook)
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A U.S. Military Academy graduate who became a private in an all-volunteer Ukrainian army unit died Tuesday during a “street battle” with pro-Russian forces, Ukraine’s interior minister wrote in a Facebook message Wednesday.

The post, first reported by BuzzFeed, identifies the man only as “Franko,” but the New York Times, Vice News and other media outlets identify him as Mark Paslawsky, 55, who graduated from West Point in 1981.

The battle took place near Donetsk, according to multiple media reports — a city in eastern Ukraine held by separatist forces, though the fighting has picked up.

Interior minister Anton Gerashchenko said in the post that he’d met “Franko“ and asked him why he’d joined up.

“Ukraine is my second home,” Paslawsky answered, according to a translation of the post. “I’m not going back to the United States. I love Ukraine and the duty of every citizen [is to] defend their homeland.”

Paslawsky began a career in finance after his U.S. military service, according to media reports. He worked out of Kiev, Moscow and other business hubs in the region before joining anti-corruption protests in Kiev last year, Vice reported.

Vice interviewed Paslawsky earlier this month, discussing his service in the Donbas Battalion, an all-volunteer unit. He told Vice that he believed he was the only American fighting with Ukrainian forces, and that his Ukrainian heritage had made him for “immediate Ukrainian citizenship,” which he applied for before joining the battalion earlier this year.

“Before you get to kill these terrorists, you need to learn to be a soldier,” Paslawsky said of his fellow battalion members, of whom he said maybe 1 in 4 had any military experience. “I think that’s been the most difficult thing for them.”

The New York Times reported Paslawsky, whom the 1981 USMA yearbook lists as a New Jersey native, had tweeted about his experiences at “bruce springnote.” The messages offer a pessimistic analysis of the situation, noting the poor quality and quantity of food for soldiers, irregular equipment and apparel, and the “pervasive style of [S]oviet thinking and leadership.”

Three other Donbas soldiers died during Tuesday’s fighting, Vice reported.

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