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Belarusian Killed On Kyiv's Maidan Honored As Hero Of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) presents the Hero of Ukraine medal to the parents of Mikhail Zhyzneuski in Kyiv on June 13.

KYIV -- A Belarusian man who was one of the first protesters killed during the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in 2014 has been posthumously awarded a Hero of Ukraine medal.

President Petro Poroshenko handed the medal to Mikhail Zhyzneuski's parents in Kyiv on June 13, making him the first foreigner awarded the high honor.

Poroshenko thanked the parents for raising a man he hailed as "a hero who was a great Belarusian and a great Ukrainian in his heart."

"He gave his life for our and your liberty," Poroshenko said at the ceremony.

The protests erupted late in 2013, after President Viktor Yanukovych scrapped plans for a landmark pact with the European Union and vowed to strengthen trade ties with Russia instead.

Zhyzneuski and another protester Serhiy Nihoyan, a Ukrainian of Armenian origin, were shot dead in central Kyiv on January 22, 2014.

A third protester, Roman Senyk, was severely wounded that day and died three days later.

As the number of protesters shot by snipers or killed in clashes with police grew, the victims became known as the Heavenly Hundred.

Mikhail Zhyzneuski's parents hold a photo of him at an event in Minsk in March 2016.
Mikhail Zhyzneuski's parents hold a photo of him at an event in Minsk in March 2016.

Yanukovych abandoned power in February 2014 in the face of mounting protests and fled to Russia, while a Western-oriented government was ushered in in Kyiv.

Russia reacted by seizing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and fomenting anti-Kyiv unrest in eastern Ukraine, where the ensuing war between Russia-backed separatists and government forces has killed more than 10,000 people.

Zhyzneuski's mother, Nina Zhyzneuskaya, told RFE/RL that the award was important to her and her husband and gave them a sense of "closure."