Policemen inspect the scene after shelling hit the premises of the National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, on Saturday. Kharkiv and surrounding areas have been the target of heavy shelling since February when Russian troops entered Ukraine. Photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
July 23 (UPI) -- A Russian tank attack killed two Americans, a Canadian and a Swedish man fighting in the Donetsk province of Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian military officer who served as their commander.
The deaths of the two American men were confirmed by a U.S. State Department spokesperson to UPI, who did not name the men.
"We can confirm the recent deaths of two U.S. citizens in the Donbas region of Ukraine. We are in touch with the families and providing all possible consular assistance," a State Department spokesperson told UPI.
"Out of respect to the families during this difficult time, we have nothing further."
Ruslan Miroshnichenko, the foreign fighters' commander, said that the men were killed on July 18 in a statement to his personal social media account reviewed by UPI.
He named the Americans killed as Luke Lucyszyn and Bryan Young and said they were killed with Canadian man Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois and Edvard Selander Patrignani of Sweden.
The identity of Lucyszyn, who was of Ukrainian descent, was confirmed by his mother Kathy to ABC News. Roy-Sirois' identity was confirmed by his mother to the Canadian newspaper Le Journal de Montréal while Patrignani's identity was confirmed by the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten.
The identities of the soldiers and their photos shared by Miroshnichenko on social media have not been independently confirmed by UPI.
"In this war against Mordor, foreign volunteers are deliberately fighting and I have the honor to be their commander," Miroshnichenko said on social media, using the name of a location from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books as a derogatory term for Russia.
"It hurts a lot to lose guys. Emotions are overwhelming and I can't find the words right now for a decent post that they are worthy of. I just want to say that they did not hide but looked for any opportunity to be useful."
Politico obtained a situation report in which Miroshnichenko wrote that the soldiers were clearing a ravine on the eastern outskirts of the village Grigorovka based on reports that Russian troops and entrenched themselves in the ravine.
A reconnaissance team supported by machine gunners and a grenade launcher team were sent to scout the area but "came under heavy mortar fire from enemy artillery of caliber 120 mm or more and cluster munitions," the situation report reads, according to Politico.
Lucyszyn was reportedly wounded during the shelling and the rest of the group provided him with first aid as Russian troops continued their assault for more than two hours until more Ukrainian troops were able to move in and recover the bodies of the foreign fighters.
The Russian forces ultimately retreated "with heavy losses," the report alleges.
"I have to write about these boys, whom we took care of and who died in the battle near Siversk, because they were different from all ours," Miroshnichenko wrote on social media.
"No one attacked their countries. They had peace, tranquility, well-being at home -- everything that the aggressors took from us and that we only dream about now. But they left it to stand with us against the evil of the world and died on our land in a battle with the horde."