Pro-Russian separatists sit on a tank at a position near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, September 2.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Jewish soldier was buried in Kiev on Friday after his body was discovered in the snow in Donetsk where it had been hidden for almost a month.
Evgeny “Benya” Yatzina, 25, was a member of the “cyborgs,” the unit that defended the Donetsk airport, Kiev’s only foothold in the rebel capital, until it was overrun in late January, the Forum Daily website reported.
“He was killed on the 20th of January, but his body was found in snow only a few days ago,” said Shimon Briman, Forum Daily’s Israeli and former Soviet Union editor. “The body was transferred to Dnipropetrovsk, and his mother went from Kiev to Dnipropetrovsk for identification.”
Briman said Yatzina had proudly identified as Jewish, greeting his friends by saying shalom and asking that they call him Benya, a “very Jewish nickname in Ukraine” that he shared with oligarch and Dnipropetrovsk regional governor Igor Kolomoisky.
“So, it was a piece of parody when soldiers called Private Evgeny like a Jewish billionaire.”
Yatzina was wounded twice during the final battle for the airport, once on January 19 when he was hit with shrapnel in the face, wounding him lightly, and again on January 20 when he was caught in a building collapse, leaving him with spinal injuries, Forum Daily reported.
His burial took place at the synagogue of Rabbi Moshe Azman, who leads one of the Chabad hasidic communities in the capital.
Azman confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that a brother had flown in from Israel for the funeral.
Not many Jews serve in the Ukrainian armed forces, one community member who had served in a unit involved in inducting troops told the Post last year.
There are Jews fighting on both sides of the war, however.
In an interview with a Russian Jewish website last December, Alexander Kofman, the Jewish foreign minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said there are “dozens” of former IDF service members fighting in Donetsk, a claim that has been difficult to verify.