President Volodymyr Zelensky has conferred posthumous honors on a Ukrainian soldier who became a national symbol of suffering and resilience after his body was pulled from a mass grave and found wearing a bracelet featuring the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag.
Serhiy Sova, 36, was honored as a Hero of Ukraine “for the personal courage and heroism shown in the defense of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to the decree issued by Mr. Zelensky over the weekend.
Mr. Sova was fighting with his unit outside Izium, in eastern Ukraine, when he went missing in April. It is not known if he was captured or killed in combat by Russian forces, but when his corpse was retrieved from a mass grave in Izium, his wife, Oksana, recognized her husband’s remains by his tattoos.
The blue and yellow bracelet around his wrist had been a gift from his children.
Mr. Sova’s 14-year-old son, Marat, petitioned the Ukrainian president to recognize his father as a national hero and asked that his remains be returned to the family. On Friday, Mr. Sova was laid to rest in his hometown, Nikopol, in southern Ukraine.
The exhumation of the mass grave where Mr. Sova’s body was recovered was completed over the weekend, with a total of 447 bodies found there. They included 215 women, 194 men, five children and 22 Ukrainian soldiers, according to the Ukrainian authorities. The remains of 11 people were mutilated beyond identification, they said.
Mr. Sova’s story resonated widely, in part because his bracelet offered a hint of individuality amid a grim tableau of mass death. But when he was buried on Friday, he was without his bracelet. It remained in the hands of investigators looking into his death.