President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy handed over the Golden Star Orders to the servicemen who were bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine and to the families of the fallen warriors who were bestowed the highest title posthumously, as well as the Crosses of Military Merit.
The ceremony took place in the White Hall of Heroes of Ukraine at the Mariyinsky Palace in Kyiv.
"Today, we bestow state honors and the title of Hero of Ukraine upon the warriors who, alongside all those who have stood up for our country and Ukrainian life, shape the destiny of Ukraine. Ukraine has already managed to halt Russia's advance. Ukraine has learned to defend itself exactly as needed to win," the Head of State emphasized.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized that Ukraine never sought this war, but when Russia came to destroy our state and our independence, Ukrainians were not afraid to stand up for it and inspired the whole world with their courage.
"We are all proud of every Ukrainian warrior! Ukraine will always be grateful to each of its soldiers, sergeants, officers and generals who have done everything to keep Ukraine alive. Ukraine will always remember all its people who gave their lives in the struggle for our independence," the President said.
For outstanding personal merits in the protection of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, selfless service to the Ukrainian people, the President bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine and presented the Order of the Golden Star to General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2021-2024.
For personal courage and heroism displayed in the protection of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the President bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine and presented the Order of the Golden Star to Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine
The Head of State also presented the Golden Star of the Hero of Ukraine to Lieutenant Colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Vyacheslav Aheiev. During massive enemy attacks, the anti-aircraft missile division under the leadership of Vyacheslav Aheiev destroyed a large number of enemy air targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as UAVs. In May 2023, it was Lieutenant Colonel Vyacheslav Aheiev's unit that destroyed a ballistic target for the first time.
Chief Sergeant Anatoliy Banatskyi, who took part in assault operations in the Zaporizhzhia sector, was bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine. In particular, during the battles near the village of Kopani, Zaporizhzhia region, Anatoliy Banatskyi fulfilled his task and assisted in the evacuation of wounded and fallen servicemen. Thanks to coordinated assault actions, the unit managed to push back the enemy, capture its stronghold and gain a foothold on the designated lines.
Staff Sergeant Oleksandr Kostenko received the Golden Star of the Hero of Ukraine from the President of Ukraine. As part of a mobile group, Oleksandr Kostenko neutralized enemy positions and destroyed an ammunition depot and invaders' equipment in Bakhmut.
The President handed the Order of the Golden Star to the wife and sons of the Hero of Ukraine, Junior Sergeant Yevheniy Volkov. In March 2022, during the evacuation of the wounded in Donetsk region, Yevheniy Volkov informed the battalion commander that a convoy of enemy tanks had been moving in the rear of the unit. Afterwards, he was killed by enemy fire. Thanks to the timely information received, the battalion command managed to move the personnel and inflict losses on the enemy.
The Golden Star of the Hero of Ukraine was received by the family of Junior Sergeant Dmytro Tserakht. During hostilities in the Bakhmut district of the Donetsk region in January 2023, the Junior Sergeant ensured the successful withdrawal of his brothers-in-arms to the main forces. In the battle, he sustained a fatal injury.
The Order was presented by the President to the family of Senior Lieutenant Volodymyr Stelmakh, who was posthumously bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine. In March 2022, he led one of the offensive groups near the village of Kalynove in the Kyiv region. Thanks to his bold actions and skillful leadership, Volodymyr Stelmakh's unit liberated Kalynove from the enemy. On March 11, during the offensive near the village of Kukhari, Kyiv region, Senior Lieutenant Volodymyr Stelmakh led a forefront squad and under enemy fire inflicted significant losses on the enemy, but was killed in action.
"The Golden Star was also presented to the family of the fallen Hero of Ukraine, Captain Ivan Lieshchienkov. The captain personally moved into the "gray" zone to coordinate the work of Ukrainian artillery, reconnoitered the enemy's front line, and provided valuable intelligence information to the command that contributed to the liberation of Ukrainian territories. In July 2022, while performing a combat mission in the Kharkiv region, Ivan Lieshchienkov was killed by an anti-tank mine.
The family of the fallen Hero, Chief Sergeant of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ivan Shchoholev, received the Golden Star from the President. In September 2022, while leading a platoon, he destroyed enemy forces in the Kupyansk direction. During this battle, he was wounded, but continued to command the unit. As part of a reconnaissance group, he also performed tasks to detect enemy positions and destroy enemy equipment and manpower. During an enemy shelling, Ivan Shchoholev covered his wounded brother-in-arms, saving his life, but he himself was mortally wounded.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also presented the highest state award to the father of the fallen Hero of Ukraine, artilleryman, Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Torshyn. During the battles in the city of Mariupol, he personally commanded the fire of his unit and destroyed the enemy in the challenging urban conditions. Volodymyr Torshyn was killed on March 22, 2022, in Mariupol, sustaining a fatal wound as a result of an air strike and artillery shelling.
The Order was also presented to the family of Junior Sergeant Taras Huryev, who was posthumously bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine. Since August 2022, as part of an assault company, he has been performing combat missions in the Donetsk region. He proved himself courageous and heroic, thereby maintaining his authority among the personnel. He was appointed to the position of unit commander. In February 2023, Taras Huryev was wounded near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, took over command and completed a combat mission. After being wounded, he refused to be hospitalized and continued to perform combat missions in Bakhmut. In early April 2023, he was appointed commander of an assault group and took part in assault operations in the direction of the Valianivka forest nursery on the outskirts of Bakhmut. During the battle with the enemy's superior forces, he was killed by a gunshot.
The President also presented the Order of the Golden Star to the wife and children of the Hero of Ukraine, Staff Sergeant Anatoliy Smitiukh, who, as head of the engineer unit, took part in battles to hold positions in the Luhansk region. In April 2023, thanks to the minefields previously set up under the leadership of Anatoliy Smitiukh combined with the work of rifle units, the offensive potential of the Russian occupiers was completely destroyed. The Staff Sergeant was killed by shrapnel wounds in May 2023 as a result of enemy artillery fire while performing a combat mission in the Luhansk region.
In addition, the Head of State presented the Presidential award "Cross of Military Merit" to the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine: Lieutenant Liubomyr Bolibok, Chief Sergeant Anatoliy Bytsula, Major Mykola Dubiliev, Junior Lieutenant Vitaliy Zaprudskyi, Staff Sergeant Oleksandr Zulunov, Junior Sergeant Denys Kokubaiev, Soldier Bohdan Kovalenko and Captain Bohdan Mazurenko. Captain Rostyslav Chynikin of the National Guard was also awarded the Cross of Military Merit.