A UKRAINIAN boxing champion has been killed fighting Russians on the frontline.
Oleksandr Onyshchenko – who was on the country's national team – died in combat near the besieged city of Bakhmut.
The 30-year-old's coach Dmytro Dubrov described him as "one of the best boxers" in an emotional tribute.
He said: "He was one of my best students.
“He was like a son to me. I coached him since he was nine years old.
“We went through a very difficult boxing path, he achieved a lot.
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“He was one of the best boxers in Sumy region and a two-time champion of Ukraine among young men.”
Oleksandr's funeral – attended by military comrades in the Sumy region and broadcast on TV – was held on Wednesday.
A statement from Ukraine's boxing federation said: "Oleksandr died near Bakhmut defending the Ukrainian homeland from the Russian enemy.
"The Boxing Federation of Ukraine expresses its sincere condolences to the family of Oleksandr.
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"Eternal memory to all those who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of our country."
The city of Bakhmut has seen some of the fiercest fighting since the war broke out in February last year.
Vladimir Putin's forces took almost 300 days to seize control of the city which has been described as having only limited wider strategic importance to the war in Ukraine.
Russia pushed forward just 60ft a day, suffered up to 100,000 casualties, and left Bakhmut a shattered hellscape in a painfully slow grinding nine-month advance.
The city was once home to 73,000 Ukrainians and how has been left in ruins.
Pictures show burning buildings and totally destroyed streets devoid of all life after months of what has been described as the "bloodiest battle" of the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine says their soldiers have played a key role in their strategy of exhausting the Russians.
And they say their current positions in the areas surrounding Bakhmut will let them strike back inside the 400-year-old city.
The city was immediately on the frontline of the war when Putin invaded on February 24, 2022 – being regularly shelled by the Russians
But it wasn't until last August that the Russians made the city its prime target – pouring in troops in staggering numbers.
Russia have estimated to have suffered up to 100,000 casualties – including 20,000 dead – during the battle.
Nato officials believe the Ukrainians had been holding the Russians at a rate of five-to-one – meaning they lost around 20,000 men.
The fighting devolved into brutal hand-to-hand and street-by-street combat – with some reports putting a the life expectancy for those on the frontline to be just four hours.
Bakhmut had become a highly symbolic battle for both Ukraine and Russia – being dubbed a "meat grinder" and compared to the World War 1 battles such as the Somme and Verdun.
Russian forces – led by the Wagner Group mercenaries and their deranged warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin – claimed to have captured the city over the weekend.
Ukraine however remained defiant – and President Volodymyr Zelensky denied the city was occupied while his forces appeared to be regrouping on the outskirts.
Ukraine's tactical gains in the rural area outside urban Bakhmut could be more significant than they seem, according to some analysts.
Phillips O'Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews said: "It was almost like the Ukrainians just took advantage of the fact that, actually, the Russian lines were weak.
"The Russian army has suffered such high losses and is so worn out around Bakhmut that … it cannot go forward anymore."
The Institute for the Study of War reports that Ukrainian troops have bunkered down in the city's southwest on highway T0504.
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It added there has been a "tacit acknowledgment" from Ukraine that the Russians control the rest of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian forces however report they are continuing to push and are moving to encircle some of the Russian forces.
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