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Hundreds gather to honor fallen Ukrainian soldiers

Oksana Dudar, left, the wife of Viktor Dudar, hugs her mother-in-law at her husband's funeral Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine. Viktor was a soldier who was killed by Russian forces. A U.S. defense analyst estimates more than 1,500 were killed in the first five days of the war. The Ukrainian military tells NPR it isn't disclosing the number of soldiers lost in the fight with Russia.
Claire Harbage
/
NPR
Oksana Dudar, left, the wife of Viktor Dudar, hugs her mother-in-law at her husband's funeral Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine. Viktor was a soldier who was killed by Russian forces. A U.S. defense analyst estimates more than 1,500 were killed in the first five days of the war. The Ukrainian military tells NPR it isn't disclosing the number of soldiers lost in the fight with Russia.

The first of Ukraine's fallen soldiers are starting to return home.

At a Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in the country's western city of Lviv, which has so far been spared the worst of Russia's invasion, hundreds gathered Tuesday to receive the bodies of 44-year-old Viktor Dudar and 24-year-old Ivan Koverznev.

Dudar was a journalist-turned-soldier. Koverznev was a lieutenant. Both men were killed by Russian forces a week into the invasion.

Soldiers and priests walk into the Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on Tuesday in downtown Lviv, Ukraine, carrying a cross and an image of Ivan Koverznev, a Ukrainian lieutenant who was killed by Russian forces on March 2.
Claire Harbage / NPR
/
NPR
Soldiers and priests walk into the Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on Tuesday in downtown Lviv, Ukraine, carrying a cross and an image of Ivan Koverznev, a Ukrainian lieutenant who was killed by Russian forces on March 2.

A U.S. defense analyst estimates more than 1,500 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the first five days of the war. The Ukrainian military tells NPR it isn't disclosing the number of soldiers lost so far in the fighting.

But even without an official death count, the toll of Russia's invasion is already becoming more visible in towns and cities across Ukraine.

After the funeral, at Lviv's Lychakiv Cemetery, as the coffins were lowered into their graves, an old colleague of Dudar's — another journalist-turned-soldier who had come to pay his respects — looked on, certain there would be many more funerals to come.

"A lot of people are going to be killed from Lviv," he said.

Next to his friend's final resting place sat three other open graves awaiting three more soldiers who were to be put to rest later that night.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A funeral procession makes its way through the Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Claire Harbage / NPR
/
NPR
A funeral procession makes its way through the Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Men fill graves with dirt while soldiers and other mourners look on Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine.
Claire Harbage / NPR
/
NPR
Men fill graves with dirt while soldiers and other mourners look on Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian journalist-turned-soldier Viktor Dudar's mother (center) grieves at his grave as he's laid to rest Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine.
Claire Harbage / NPR
/
NPR
Ukrainian journalist-turned-soldier Viktor Dudar's mother (center) grieves at his grave as he's laid to rest Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine.