It was a photograph shared around the world, the brave Ukrainian soldier basking in a beam of sunshine penetrating the darkness of his underground fortress. But that ray of hope was extinguished last night as it emerged Dima Kozatsky was among the hundreds of fighters captured by the Russians as their brave resistance came to an end
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‘Thank you for sheltering me, Azovstal – the place of my death and my life’: The poignant last post of Ukraine’s iconic ‘ray of hope’ warrior as Mariupol’s besieged steelworks FINALLY falls to the Russians

  • For more than 80 days they had defended the besieged Azovstal steelworks in the coastal city of Mariupol
  • Mr Kozatsky, from the elite Azov Regiment, had documented their struggle in a series of pictures tweeted 
  • His iconic self-portrait in sunshine was from his underground base as Russia bombed the Soviet-era factory
  • He wrote: ‘Well that’s all there is. Thank you for sheltering me, Azovstal – the place of my death and my life’ 

It was a photograph shared around the world, the brave Ukrainian soldier basking in a beam of sunshine penetrating the darkness of his underground fortress.

But that ray of hope was extinguished last night as it emerged Dima Kozatsky was among the hundreds of fighters captured by the Russians as their brave resistance came to an end.

For more than 80 days they had defended the besieged Azovstal steelworks in the coastal city of Mariupol. Mr Kozatsky, from the elite Azov Regiment, had documented their struggle in a series of pictures tweeted from his underground base as Russia bombed the Soviet-era factory.

His iconic self-portrait in sunshine will ensure their fight can never be forgotten, and he added more pictures and words to that legacy in the final hours of the fight. In his last post, he wrote: ‘Well that’s all there is. Thank you for sheltering me, Azovstal –the place of my death and my life.’

Mercifully, however, it can be revealed that he is still alive though ‘in captivity’. Russia’s defence minister claimed last night 1,908 of the crack troops had surrendered. Sergei Shoigu said he believed as many as 600 were still inside the plant.

It was a photograph shared around the world, the brave Ukrainian soldier basking in a beam of sunshine penetrating the darkness of his underground fortress. But that ray of hope was extinguished last night as it emerged Dima Kozatsky was among the hundreds of fighters captured by the Russians as their brave resistance came to an end

It was a photograph shared around the world, the brave Ukrainian soldier basking in a beam of sunshine penetrating the darkness of his underground fortress. But that ray of hope was extinguished last night as it emerged Dima Kozatsky was among the hundreds of fighters captured by the Russians as their brave resistance came to an end

Friends described Mr Kozatsky as ‘a fierce patriot’ who dropped out of his studies at a Polish university in 2014 so he could join the anti-government protests that toppled former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. The ex-radio host then signed up for the Ukrainian army the following year before joining Azov in 2017.

Moscow has repeatedly made bogus claims that the unit, owing to its nationalist roots, poses a risk to European security because it is made up of so-called ‘Nazis.’

Mr Kozatsky, also known online as Orest, became the unit’s de facto official photographer during the months-long siege in which hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians hid from Russian attacks.

In an interview with Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske, the native of Malyn, near Kyiv, described the ‘endless horror’ of this daily fight for survival – and how it became a symbol of hope for the world.

He said: ‘We have wounded fighters and the dead here who we are protecting. We cannot abandon them, as they have contributed their maximum to this war – some at the cost of their own lives, some at the cost of their health.’

Friends described Mr Kozatsky as ‘a fierce patriot’ who dropped out of his studies at a Polish university in 2014 so he could join the anti-government protests that toppled former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. The ex-radio host then signed up for the Ukrainian army the following year before joining Azov in 2017

Friends described Mr Kozatsky as ‘a fierce patriot’ who dropped out of his studies at a Polish university in 2014 so he could join the anti-government protests that toppled former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. The ex-radio host then signed up for the Ukrainian army the following year before joining Azov in 2017

Mr Kozatsky, also known online as Orest, became the unit’s de facto official photographer during the months-long siege in which hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians hid from Russian attacks

Mr Kozatsky, also known online as Orest, became the unit’s de facto official photographer during the months-long siege in which hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians hid from Russian attacks

He added: ‘There are brother-in-arms who need proper treatment, but they cannot get it. Medication ran out a long time ago. All the defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal have now become a symbol of fortitude not only for Ukraine, but also for the world.’

Russia’s supreme court will rule on May 26 whether to classify the battalion as ‘a terrorist organisation’, while Russian MPs have called for them to face trial for alleged war crimes.

The Ukrainian government said it will try to bring them back home in a prisoner swap with captured Russian troops.

Dr Samuel Ramani, a Russia expert at the University of Oxford, warned that the evacuated fighters could be used as ‘trophies’ for domestic political gain and might even face the death penalty.

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