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The Only American Fighting for Ukraine Dies in Battle

By Simon Ostrovsky
Mark Gregory Paslawsky, the sole American fighting on the Ukrainian side of the war in the east of the country, died from injuries sustained in battle in the town of Ilovaysk on Tuesday.

Known by the codename “Franko,” the 55-year-old investment banker was a Manhattan native, and had a slight limp and a pronounced New York accent, making him seem an unlikely candidate for a soldier in an eastern European war that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives.

VICE News interviewed Paslawsky in early August in the Luhansk region where he had been deployed with the volunteer Donbas Battalion. He said he decided to take up arms against the separatist Russia-backed rebellion because of his family’s Ukrainian background, as well as the frustration and helplessness that came with watching news reports on Ukraine’s deteriorating situation after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

Paslawsky worked in the financial sector and was based out of Kiev, Kharkiv, and Moscow for many years before he joined the Euromaidan protests that gripped the Ukrainian capital last winter. Most recently, he was an independent investment advisor.

“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 told VICE News.

After graduating from West Point, Paslawsky served in the US Army Rangers until he was 32 years old.

Oleg Nikitin, Paslawsky’s friend and former colleague at Avec Holding in Kharkiv, told VICE News: “He didn’t have the patience to sit and watch the chaos that was happening [in Ukraine], and as a professional soldier, he didn’t need much training and was in good physical shape. He made the decision to join up conscientiously.”


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