An Australian fighter dubbed 'the Ninja' was killed while fighting Russian forces to liberate a village in Ukraine. Trevor Kjeldal, 40, from Queensland was reportedly killed in the Donbas region in Ukraine this week. Kjeldal had earlier been injured once fighting the Russian forces in Ukraine but managed to survive.
According to reports, Kjeldal had disregarded the Australian government's advice in March and flew to fight in Ukraine despite having no ties to the country or any previous military experience. Kjeldal was described as "a very treasured and loved member" of his family, who are now devastated after his death.
A Different Martyr
The 40-year-old lost his life in combat in the Luhansk region on Wednesday, where there has been a lot of fighting lately. He is thought to have been killed close to Nevske, which Ukrainian forces liberated the same day Kjeldal died.
Four hours before Kjeldal vpassed away, a member of his unit who was texting with the Australian described him as "very committed to the cause" of "Ukrainian liberty" and "fighting the Russians," according to The Age.
"[That day I] just asked how he is doing, [he asked] how I am doing," he said.
"Back in July he suffered a serious injury, and after undergoing health treatment for two months he returned in mid-September. He was really committed."
"It was quite intense fighting here [at the position]."
He claimed that Kjeldal was the second Australian to lose his life while serving with their squad. Jed William Danahay, 27, also from Queensland, was killed in August in Izyum, eastern Ukraine, by Russian forces.
Kjeldal was seriously wounded while fighting the Russians in July but managed to survive. He had sustained shrapnel wounds to the head at that time. However, he claimed that he had no plans of going back to Australia and would rather stay in Ukraine until the war ended.
"I've beat the odds once, so let's just see if I can do it again," Kjedal said at the time.
Died Like a Brave Soldier
Kjedal is believed to have been a member of the Ukrainian army's 49th "Select Carpathian" unit. He gained the moniker "the Ninja" on social media after making a splash while serving on the front lines.
Just last month he told a Nine News crew he felt compelled to help in the war. He claimed that President Volodymyr Zelensky's ardent appeal for soldiers and the creation of an "International Legion" had motivated him to enlist in the conflict in Ukraine.
"When I heard that Zelensky was calling out for volunteer fighters I booked my ticket straight away. I was really inspired by the Ukrainian people's bravery and resilience," Kjeldal said at that time after he was injured for the first time.
"Plus, Australians always love to support the underdog, it's just our nature."
He also expressed his conviction that things are moving in Ukraine's favor in October.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which says it is now helping his family, confirmed his death. His family expressed their sorrow at Kjeldal's passing in a statement.
"Our depth of sadness at his loss is unfathomable," the family said.
"We would like to thank DFAT for their ongoing assistance in bringing him home to us. At this incredibly sad time, we would request that the media respect our privacy as we grieve."
According to Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine, 20,000 foreign warriors from 52 countries have reportedly applied to fight against Russia. Although there are no publicly available official numbers, earlier reports have estimated that there are between 200 and 600 Australians fighting in Ukraine.
The Australian government has consistently advised its citizens against visiting Ukraine, in contrast to the British government, which has urged its military-trained people to participate in the war effort.
While it is allowed to join a foreign country's official military force, it is currently against the law for Australian residents to engage in overseas conflicts for non-state armed groups.