Former Army Ranger and West Point graduate Mark Gregory Paslawsky, 55, died as a result of combat injuries near the border between Ukraine and Russia fighting Russian-backed separatists in the ongoing Crimean crisis. He was the only known American in the fight.
Born in New York of Ukrainian descent, Paslawsky was an investment banker after serving in the Rangers. He served the Army into his 30s before switching careers. But he saw how disorganized the resistance against the Russian annexation of Crimea was, he knew he had to do something.
With his military experience and work history that had him working and living in Kiev, Kharkiv, and Moscow he decided he was better off fighting alongside Ukranian volunteer forces.
“Given what I saw, the level of incompetence, the corruption, the lack of activity — I just decided that I needed to go and participate. If there was ever a time to help Ukraine, this was the time to do it,” he said in an interview with Vice News.
Paslawsky and three others were killed in an attempt to capture the town of Ilovaysk, part of the supply chain to the rebel capital of Donetsk. This would have blocked forces and re-supplies from Russia.
He served with the Donbas Battalion where he was welcomed as a brother in arms.
“I think he had been a major, but he never talked about it,” explained a fellow soldier by the nickname “Lex” to Vice. “I got the feeling he was very wealthy, but he made a point of trying to hide it. He never used his money and insisted on carrying only the equipment he was issued with by the battalion.”
“The whole platoon says ‘fucking’ every other word, we got it from him. He used to say ‘fucking Obama’ all the time, because the US hasn’t given Ukraine any support, he was really ashamed of that,” Lex continued.
“This was a botched operation,” said Maxim Dondyuk, the batalion’s embedded photographer. “Donbas was supposed to fight its way into the city with the support of three other battalions, but they chickened out and now we’re surrounded by the separatists and are being shelled with grad rockets and mortars. If they manage to cut off the road leading out of here we’re all done for.”
He leaves behind his mother, brother and sister.
For more coverage of the Crimean crisis from an American perspective, check out the Vice YouTube channel.