A 52-year-old Florida veteran is the second American to be killed in Ukraine's war with Russia.
The U.S. State Department confirmed to several media outlets this week that Stephen D. Zabielski, 52, of Hernando, Florida, was killed when a land mine exploded in the village of Dorozhniank in southeastern Ukraine on May 15.
According to an obituary from his family and published in upstate New York newspaper The Recorder on June 1, Zabielski lived in Cranesville, New York, until 2018, when he moved to Florida.
Rolling Stone, the first news outlet to report on his death Monday, said the former U.S. army veteran volunteered to fight against invading Russian forces in Ukraine, and was killed by a land mine.
He is the second American to die in the fighting, following Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, a volunteer soldier from Kentucky who was killed in April.
Three other Americans are currently missing, part of a total of 10 western casualties since the beginning of the conflict Feb. 25, according to the report.
A U.S. official, speaking anonymously to the Washington Post, said Monday that the State Department had been in touch with Zabielski's family and offered "all possible consular assistance," but did not speak about the death further "out of respect to the family during this difficult time."
According to the obituary, Zabielski is "survived by his wife, Fran A. (Fulci) Zabielski; five stepchildren: Cody Pine, Austin Pine, Heather Hartenfels, Christina Hartenfels, & Francesa Hartenfels; seven siblings: Theresa A. Zabielski, Edward J. Zabielski, Carrielynn (Zabielski) Soodol, Sandra M. (Zabielski) Spagnola, Robert F. Zabielski, Tami R. (Zabielski) Beaudette, & Pamela J. Zabielski; one grandchild, eight nieces, six nephews, many cousins and extended family members. Steve was predeceased by his brother Roger W. Zabielski, his sister Sharon L. Zabielski & his first wife Colleen "Coco" (Kaminski) Zabielski."
The family reportedly held a private funeral.
"Steve enjoyed life to the fullest. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and riding his Harley," his obituary said. "Steve will be missed by all who knew and loved him."
The State Department has advised Americans to leave the region, or not to travel to the Ukraine due to the fighting.
"Do not travel to Ukraine due to Russian military invasion and COVID-19. U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options," the agency's April 19 advisory alert reads. "U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials. All U.S. citizens should carefully monitor U.S. government notices and local and international media outlets for information about changing security conditions and alerts to shelter in place. Those remaining in Ukraine should exercise increased caution due to the potential for active combat, crime, and civil unrest."
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