The State Department has confirmed another U.S. citizen turned volunteer soldier was killed in Ukraine, the second American death since the war began in February and thousands of foreigners joined the fight.
First reported in Rolling Stone, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to VICE News through an emailed statement that Stephen Zabielski, 52, a U.S. citizen and native of New York State, died fighting in Ukraine.
“We have been in touch with the family and have provided all possible consular assistance,” said the spokesperson. “Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further.”
According to an obituary published by his family in early June, Zabielski, a thirty-plus-year worker in the construction industry, was killed on May 15 while “fighting the war in [the] Village of Dorozhniank, Ukraine.” He leaves behind a wife, five stepchildren, and a grandchild.
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Zabielski’s death, reportedly from encountering a landmine while on patrol, marks the second confirmed American killed since hostilities between Russian and Ukraine escalated in late February. In April, ex-Marine Willy Joseph Cancel, was the first American to die as a combatant in the war. Several Americans are believed to have joined the Ukrainian cause against Russia, many of whom are veterans of the U.S. military.
The Kremlin has repeatedly charged that American mercenaries and spies are under the employ of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government. In reality, thousands of foreign fighters have descended on Ukraine as combatants in the war, something the State Department has repeatedly warned its citizens against doing.
“We once again reiterate U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials,” the State Department spokesperson said.
Last week two American veterans turned volunteer fighters in Ukraine, former U.S. Army serviceman Alexander Drueke and ex-Marine Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, were captured by Russian forces and then handed over to the Donetsk People’s Republic—an unrecognized Kremlin puppet state in the east of Ukraine. Russian government mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov told NBC News he could not guarantee the two Americans would not face the death penalty for fighting against Russian forces.
Peskov called the captured duo “soldiers of fortune” and made the claim that therefore, they would not be protected under international laws as prisoners of war.
Weeks ago, two British men, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoun, were sentenced to the death penalty as “mercenaries” after being captured during the siege of Mariupol.
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