The big picture: A State Department spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement to Axios the death of U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski and said officials had “provided all possible consular assistance.”
- The New York-born 52-year-old had moved to Florida before going to Ukraine to fight during the Russian military invasion, according to an obituary published in the Recorder, a newspaper in Montgomery County, N.Y.
- He died on May 15 “while fighting the war” and is survived by a wife, five stepchildren and other family members, the obituary states.
Between the lines: Zabielski’s military records could not immediately be verified, but many Westerners have gone into combat for Ukraine after Kyiv “aggressively recruited Westerners with previous military experience to join its International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine,” the Washington Post notes.
Where it stands: Confirmation of Zabielski’s death comes weeks after the killing of former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel, who died while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.
Meanwhile, the families of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, reported the U.S. military veteran went missing while assisting in the war against Russian forces.
- Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told NBC News on Monday international rules of war wouldn’t apply to the vets from Alabama, despite Geneva Conventions protections including ensuring “prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.”
What they’re saying: “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.
- “And that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options,” added the spokesperson, who declined to comment further on Zabielski.
- The Pentagon and U.S. Army did not immediately return Axios’ requests for comment. Axios could not immediately reach Zabielski’s family for comment.