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Quebecer Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, code name ‘Beaver,’ dies on front lines in Ukraine


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By Virginie Ann in Montreal

Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, a 31-year-old Quebecer who recently died in Ukraine fighting Russian forces, volunteered on the front lines because he wanted to protect innocent women and children, according to a soldier who fought with him.

Roy-Sirois “was an intellectual who cared about humanity,” said Blackhawk, a fighter who, for security reasons, would only use a code name in an interview Monday on Instagram.

“He was kind and never meant anyone harm. He listened to orders and was brave.”

Roy-Sirois died on July 18 after spending about four months fighting in Ukraine, said Blackhawk, who is from Idaho. “He died a hero beside his friends trying to transport a wounded American named Luke, code name Skywalker.”

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress issued a statement on Monday saying it was saddened to learn about the death of Roy-Sirois.

“Mr. Roy-Sirois will be remembered by the Ukrainian people and our community for his selflessness and commitment to the values of liberty and justice that Canada and Ukraine share,” the organization said.

The leader of Roy-Sirois’s team of fighters in Ukraine said the Quebecer and three other volunteers were killed by a Russian tank shell near Siversk, in the eastern part of the country. Angel — who also wouldn’t use his real name for security reasons — said he felt lucky to have Roy-Sirois as “a brother in battle.”

“We were the only two Canadians who made it to the front lines and stayed,” Angel, who is from Saskatchewan, said Monday in an interview on Facebook Messenger. “He had the option to leave the front line but stayed. Anyone would be proud of his bravery, and I was lucky enough to have him.”

Angel and Blackhawk both described Roy-Sirois as an easygoing, funny guy whose code name was “Beaver.”

“He said there were a lot of beavers in Canada,” Blackhawk said.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement it is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine but did not give details.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

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armed conflict

Ukraine demands emergency UN meeting over Putin nuclear plan

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Ukrainian servicemen fold the national flag over the coffin of their comrade Andrii Neshodovskiy during the funeral ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

By Karl Ritter in Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s government on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed plans to station tactical atomic weaponsin Belarus.

One Ukrainian official said that Russia “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

But Moscow said it was making the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine. Putin announced the plan in a television interview that aired on Saturday, saying it was triggered by a U.K. decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the lead of the United States. He noted that Washington has nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crews,” he said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement Sunday and demanded an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

“Ukraine expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the U.K., China, the U.S. and France, including as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which have a special responsibility to prevent threats of aggression using nuclear weapons,” the statement read. “The world must be united against someone who endangers the future of human civilization.”

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step towards internal destabilization” of Belarus that maximized “the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society. The Kremlin, Danilov added, “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

In Russia, authorities said three people were injured when a Ukrainian drone caused an explosion Sunday in a town far from the two countries’ border. The state-run news agency Tass reported authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141.

The explosion damaged residential buildings in the town of Kireyevsk in the Tula region, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the border with Ukraine and 175 kilometers (110 miles) south of Moscow. It left a crater about 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter and five meters (16 feet) deep, according to media reports.

The Russian state-run news agency Tass reported authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141. The Tu-141 went into service in the Soviet army in the 1970s. It reportedly was retired from service in 1989, then reintroduced in Ukraine in 2014. It has a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles)

Ukraine has not yet commented on the incident.

On Saturday, Putin argued that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked to have nuclear weapons in his country again to counter NATO. Belarus shares borders with three NATO members — Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — and Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground to send troops into neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

Both Lukashenko’s support of the war and Putin’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus has been denounced by the Belarusian opposition.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles. Russia plans to maintain control over the ones it sends to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Putin said.

Russia has stored its tactical nuclear weapons at dedicated depots on its territory, and moving part of the arsenal to a storage facility in Belarus would up the ante in the Ukrainian conflict by placing them closer to Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed there.

The U.S. said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement. So far, Washington hasn’t seen “any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

In Germany, the foreign ministry called it a “further attempt at nuclear intimidation,” German news agency dpa reported late Saturday. The ministry went on to say that “the comparison drawn by President Putin to NATO’s nuclear participation is misleading and cannot be used to justify the step announced by Russia.”


Kirsten Grieshaber contributed to this report from Berlin.

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‘On tour in hell’: Wounded Ukrainian soldiers evacuated

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An injured Ukrainian soldier lies on a bed inside a special medical bus during an evacuation by volunteers from the Hospitallers paramedic organisation in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

By Elena Becatoros in Donetsk Region

DONETSK REGION, Ukraine (AP) — Their hands are blackened and grimy from the fight. Some are still wearing their combat boots, small flecks of black soil from the battlefield clinging to their torsos, bare under the emergency blanket.

With bandaged heads and splinted limbs, the wounded soldiers are stretchered into the waiting medical evacuation bus by members of the Hospitallers, a Ukrainian organization of volunteer paramedics who work on the front lines in the war in Ukraine.

The soldiers were all wounded recently in fierce fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, where Russian forces have been pressing advances. The battle in Bakhmut, a city now encircled on three sides by Russian troops, has been particularly bloody, with soldiers describing endless days of combat, often at close quarters.

“We’ve been on tour in hell,” said Yura, who like all the soldiers would give only his first name for safety reasons. He lay on a bed in a specially equipped medical bus, with his arm and leg badly wounded.

Blood stained the heavy bandages around his right forearm, which metal rods held together to stabilize the shattered bone. His bicep bore a deepening purple bruise left by the tourniquet applied to staunch the blood and save his life. The time it was put on was scrawled in pen across his right cheek: 19:45.

“They tried to get me with grenades,” he said.

Unlike most of the wounded, Yura is not Ukrainian. He is Russian, but fought on the side of Ukraine in Bakhmut since November. The Moscow native said he moved to Ukraine before the war, as did a friend of his who is also fighting for Ukraine and had spent 2 1/2 years in prison in Russia for reposting a social media post saying Crimea — annexed by Russia in 2014 — was Ukrainian.

It was his own countrymen who wounded him.

He was in Bakhmut for “eight days of almost uninterrupted combat.” But he and his unit managed to repel all the assaults on their position, he said.

“On the fifth day without sleep, I had thoughts that I would go crazy,” he said. “In fact, it’s impossible to sleep there. They shell it in such a way that the earth trembles.”

He showed a video on his mobile phone shot inside Bakhmut: the interior of a devastated building, holes punched through the walls by artillery, rubble strewn across the floor. Beyond the twisted metal remnants of a window, a glimpse of an urban hellscape of shattered buildings and splintered trees.

Yaroslav, 37, was also wounded in Bakhmut. The battle was so close that Russian and Ukrainian forces fought room to room inside buildings, he said.

Pale and with an almost imperceptible tremor, his lips nearly white, he propped himself up on an elbow as he waited to be carried on a stretcher from an ambulance onto the bus for the trip to a better equipped hospital in a city further west.

An explosion had sent shrapnel through his leg, piercing it below the knee.

“I came to my senses and saw that there is nobody around me, and then I understood that there is blood oozing into my shoe, blood squelching in my shoe,” he said, quietly drawing on a cigarette. “It was totally dark.”

As his unit had attempted to move from its position, the Russian forces began shelling.

“When I left, everything was on fire,” he recalled. There were dead Russians lying on the ground, and dead Ukrainians, too. “People were running in the road and falling down, because mines were exploding, drones were flying.”

He finished his cigarette and lay back on the stretcher. His eyes fixed on some invisible point before him, and he slowly closed his eyelids. The Hospitallers lifted his stretcher and carried it to the waiting bus.

The medically equipped bus — named “Austrian,” the nickname of a Hospitaller paramedic who was killed in a crash of another medical evacuation bus — can carry six severely wounded patients on stretchers, and several more walking wounded.

“We’re doing evacuations as necessary. It could be twice or three times per day,” chief paramedic Kateryna Seliverstova said.

Bought with money from donations, the bus is better equipped medically than even some state hospitals, Seliverstova said. It is stocked with monitors, electrocardiographs, ventilators and oxygen tanks and can care for severely ill patients while they are transported to a major hospital.

“This project is really important, because it helps to economize resources,” Seliverstova said. “We can transport six injured people who are in serious or moderate condition,” whereas a normal ambulance can only transport one.

All six places were taken on the trip evacuating Yura and Yaroslav. Across the aisle from Yura, another soldier slipped in and out of consciousness, a brown bandage wrapped around his head. A paramedic checked his vital signs on a monitor, and helped him sip water from a syringe.

Behind him, a man coughed deeply. Only the blackened tip of his nose was visible from his heavily bandaged head. He had suffered extensive burns to his face.

Yura spoke softly to one of the paramedics. Without his expression changing, tears began rolling down the side of his face. The paramedic leaned over and gently wiped them away.


Vasilisa Stepanenko and Evgeniy Maloletka contributed from Donetsk region, Ukraine.

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