British military volunteer is killed while fighting for Ukraine in some of the country’s fiercest battles against Russia
- Jay Morais, 52, from Bristol, is understood to have been killed in February
- During his year in Ukraine, he fought in battles for Severodonetsk and Bakhmut
A British military volunteer has been killed while fighting for Ukraine in some of the country’s fiercest battles against Russia.
Jay Morais, 52, from Bristol, took part in street battles in Severodonetsk last summer and more recently in Bakhmut, according to The Telegraph. Both are in the eastern Donbas region, where Kyiv’s forces continue to hold off against Moscow’s forces.
The newspaper reported that Ukraine’s International Legion had confirmed his death on Tuesday night, saying that he died in a hospital in Kharkiv in February, while his Ukrainian fiance told the publication: ‘I still can’t really believe he is dead.’
A spokesperson for the UK’s foreign office confirmed to MailOnline that it had supported the family of a man who had died in Ukraine.
The International Legion was set up by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky last year, and is open to fighters from abroad with military experience who wish to take up arms against the Russian invaders to help Kyiv’s forces in the conflict.
A British military volunteer has been killed fighting in Ukraine, according to reports. Jay Morais, 52, from Bristol, spent a year fighting in the country and took part in some of the fiercest battles against Vladimir Putin’s invading forces
‘Sadly, Jay Morais has died in the line of duty,’ a spokesman for the Legion said, according The Telegraph. It added that no further details were provided.
A post on Facebook from the International Legion’s memorial page dated March 24 also appeared to confirm Morais’s death.
‘Please Help us Honor Him so that He Is Not Forgotten,’ the post said, along-side a picture of Morais with a Union Jack and Portuguese flag over the top – suggesting he was of British and Portuguese origin.
‘Our Beloved Portuguese Brother Jay Morais, who had been serving in Ukraine as a Volunteer succumbed on the Battlefield.
‘Honor, Glory and Gratitude To Our Brother,’ the post added.
Underneath the post, tributes from Ukrainian followers poured in, thanking him for his service. ‘Great selfless hero, may you rest in eternal glory and never be forgotten,’ one person wrote. Another said: ‘Rest in peace brave warrior. We will not forget you.’
The newspaper reported that Morais had briefly spoken to its reporters last summer about his time fighting in Severodonetsk.
The Donbas city became the centre of intense fighting last year, as Russia refocused its military efforts after pulling back from the regions around Kyiv.
The battle lasted for around four months, with the city eventually falling to Putin’s forces after the Ukrainian government ordered its own to withdraw on June 24.
The city’s capture by Russian forces is seen as one of Russia’s last major gains before Moscow’s push west stalled and Ukraine launched two major counter offensives in the north and the south to successfully retake swathes of territory.
Since Ukraine’s offensives in the north and south, the frontlines have largely been entrenched, with only slight shifts.
Speaking at the time, Morais told The Telegraph that several of his comrades had been killed or injured fighting to defend Severodonetsk.
During one battle, he said he had to ‘run for my bloody life’ down a street in the city as he was chased by a Russian tank.
He also told the newspaper that the fighting was so intense that other volunteers, among them experienced soldiers, had left the city. He chose to say, however.
According to the publication, Morais said he had previously spent time in the French Foreign Legion, for whom he served in Kosovo and the Ivory Coast. He left in 2007, returning to Britain.
With no wife or children at home, the newspaper said Jay Morais (right) had gone to fight in Ukraine last year to stop Russia from ‘doing what it likes’. While there, it is understood that he met Lidiya Martynova (left), 34, and the pair got engaged
However, with no wife or children at home, the newspaper said he had gone to fight in Ukraine last year to stop Russia from ‘doing what it likes’. While there, it is understood that he met Lidiya Martynova, 34, and the pair got engaged.
She told The Telegraph that her late fiance was a ‘very special guy’ and a ‘professional soldier’ who emphasised that – as a soldier – it was not important how many enemies he had killed, ‘but how many people he’d saved.’
‘I still can’t really believe he is dead. He was planning to stay here in Ukraine once the war was over to start a new life here,’ she told the publication.
While it was not specified where Morais was killed, it was reported that he had been fighting in Bakhmut, where the most intense battle since the outset of the war has raged on for months – and where both sides have suffered thousands of casualties.
The city lies south-west of Severodonetsk, and has been described as a ‘meat grinder’ akin to the battles seen during the First World War.
Trench warfare has become the norm, with Russia making only marginal gains at the cost of vast numbers of soldiers. More recently, Russia has shown signs of taking a ‘scorched-earth’ approach, bombing large parts of the city with incendiary bombs.
In defending the city so fiercely, Ukraine too has lost many troops.
Morais had previously told The Telegraph that fighting there was ‘full on’, but that the most difficult part of the job was breaking bad news to the relatives of soldiers under his own command who had been killed in the fighting there.
Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told MailOnline: ‘We supported the family of a British man following his death in Ukraine’.
The Telegraph reported that Ukraine’s International Legion had confirmed the death of Jay Morais (pictured) on Tuesday night, saying that he died in a hospital in Kharkiv in February
Confirmation of Morais’s death came as Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday its forces had seriously damaged – though not totally destroyed – Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade near Bakhmut a day earlier.
It stressed that the eastern city remained Moscow’s main target.
READ MORE: From ‘Victory Day’… to running away! Footage shows humiliating Russian retreat in Bakhmut after Putin was forced to scale back annual military parade
Footage emerged overnight appearing to confirm that the Russian brigade had retreated from its position, allowing Ukraine to push forward.
The news came at an embarrassing time for Putin, who on the same day as the battlefield defeat hosted Russia’s annual Victory Day parade to mark the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Russian forces have been trying to capture the eastern city for nine months, with a deluge of troops and weaponry, despite it having questionable strategic benefit.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said the situation remained ‘difficult’ in Bakhmut, but that Moscow was increasingly forced to use regular army forces because of heavy losses among the Wagner private army group.
Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose private Wagner Group is fighting in Bakhmut, said on Tuesday that the 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade had abandoned its positions and fled.
He suggested as a result of Moscow losing its position, Wagner had suffered as many as 500 casualties in the fighting.
‘Unfortunately they have not destroyed the whole (Russian) brigade yet, two companies have been seriously damaged there,’ Cherevatyi said on TV.
‘The situation (in Bakhmut) remains difficult because for the enemy, despite all the white noise Prigozhin is trying to create, it (Bakhmut) is (still) the main direction of attack, the main coveted target.’
The confirmation also came as tributes poured in for Arman Soldin, the Agence France-Presse journalist slain near Bakhmut.
Soldin, who was working as the new agency’s Ukraine video coordinator, was killed in a Grad rocket attack near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
He was with a team of AFP journalists travelling with Ukrainian soldiers when the group came under fire. The rest of the team escaped uninjured.
Today, his colleagues gathered solemnly at the press agency’s Paris headquarters, a day after his death, to remember the 32-year old.
A widely broadcast photo of Soldin, pictured in protective gear and smiling broadly with a cat on his shoulder, has plucked at the heartstrings of the French nation and many others abroad.
‘Arman was so enthusiastic, so energetic, so alive that it seems unreal to be here and talk about it this morning,’ said Juliette Hollier-Larousse, AFP’s deputy news director.
Britain’s Downing Street also paid tribute to the ‘talented and courageous’ journalist.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said 32-year-old Arman Soldin’s work with the news agency had been ‘vital’ in shining a light on Putin’s invasion.
Ukrainian army Grad multiple rocket launcher fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 3
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘Arman was a talented and courageous journalist and his death is obviously devastating for all those who knew him.
‘Journalism continues to shine a light in the darkness of this war and Arman’s work was vital to that.
‘Any death in this needless invasion is tragic and our thoughts remain with all those who have lost loved ones during this conflict.’
At least 10 media workers are believed to have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine.
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