Ballet dancer

Leading Ukrainian ballet dancer killed in Russian mortar fire

FILE: Abandoned ammunition in a church in the village of Bohorodychne in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region (AFP via Getty Images)

The Ukrainian leader ballet Dancer Oleksandr Shapoval was killed while fighting on the front line.

The National Opera of Ukraine paid tribute to Mr Shapoval as a “brave romantic” who volunteered immediately after the Russian invasion to defend his country.

The dancer died aged 48 while under “enemy mortar shelling”, he added.

In a statement, the National Opera said: “He was a great creative person, there were no ‘small’ roles for him – as a true artist he created stage images which fans of ballet will be remembered forever.

“In addition, he was an impeccable partner on stage, a good friend in the team.

“Oleksandr Shapoval left a brilliant mark not only in the history of the performing arts of the National Opera of Ukraine, but also as a teacher.”

The acclaimed performer volunteered to join the Territorial Defense days after Putin’s invasion in February and defended Kyiv against Russian forces.

In April, he volunteered to go to the front as a soldier, the statement said, where his unit was transferred to an area of ​​heavy fighting that ultimately led to his “instant heroic death”.

The Kyiv Independent reported that Mr Shapoval was killed in the Battle of Majorsk in the Donetsk region.

The performer was a “Honored Artist of Ukraine”, a distinction given to those whose work is outstanding in a field of the arts.

In 28 seasons, he performed some 30 different roles, charming audiences “with his brilliant and beautiful, romantic and heroic dancing, his impeccable talent and his deep conviction of every image he created on stage”, said the company.

Among those also paying tribute to the late performer was one of the world’s greatest ballet choreographers, Alexei Ratmansky.

Writing on Facebook, he said: “He died defending his land with guns in hand. Eternal memory and gratitude to the Hero!

“Cursed war, cursed Russian aggression that brings death and destruction!!”

Another company dancer, Artem Datsyshyn, was killed during the war in March.