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A young soldier’s lonely funeral in Ukraine

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            When they buried Dmytro Kotenko, he had no relatives around him. His parents were oblivious to the gunfire that rang out over his grave. They didn’t notice the sound of the ribbon flapping in the wind when it was fastened to the wooden cross above him. They didn’t notice the hard soil that initially dropped on his casket, and they didn’t place a flower on top of him after he was entirely buried by the ground.

Dmytro Kotenko was laid to rest in Lviv’s Lychakiv Cemetery. His parents and two brothers were 600 kilometres away, near the eastern city of Sumy, which was being pounded by Russian soldiers. Two days after his death, his parents got a phone call from his boyhood buddy, artillery soldier Vadym Yarovenko, who broke the news. The Kotenkos were a poor family of two parents and three boys living in a tiny town near the Russian border in eastern Ukraine – the same people Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he is freeing from the burden of Ukrainian oppression.

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