A BRITISH special forces veteran has been killed while fighting against the Russians in Ukraine.
Afghan War veteran Simon Lingard, known to pals as Grimmy, was killed in action when his trench was hit by a Russian shell on Monday.
At least two other Brits were injured in an artillery blitz in Bakhmut in devastated eastern Donbas, former comrades told The Sun.
The hero dad-of-two from Blackburn served in the elite Special Forces Support Group – which supports SAS and SBS missions.
He volunteered to defend Ukraine after Putin unleashed his bloodbath invasion.
His son Jackson wrote on Facebook: “After years of dedicating his time and effort to protecting our country, my dad still had more fight in him and left the country to protect the people of Ukraine against the Russian army too.
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“My heart is broken to announce that his troop was attacked and Dad has passed away in battle, a true hero and beloved to so many of us.
“I can't put into words how much he is and will be missed, but I'm comforted to know that this happened doing what he loved and surrounded by friends.
“I love you dad, I'm so proud of you.”
Comrades said the former machine gunner was killed when a Russian shell landed directly in his trench.
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He was part of a band of British volunteers defending the iconic town of Bakhmut in Donetsk province from wave after wave of Russian assaults.
A former colleague Kierren Stokes wrote on Facebook: “Absolutely gutted to be posting this, Si was an awesome soldier with a great, sometimes questionable sense of humour.
“He is a guy I'm proud to have served with in 2 Para before he moved to SFSG and served in Afghanistan on multiple tours.
“After the Russian invasion of Ukraine he did not hesitate to go and fight on their behalf and I’m sure his expertise, experience and mentoring capabilities have helped the Ukrainian army push the Russians back to their current point.”
“I'm also sure what he will have taught those fighting with him will help them win this war."
In a message to his sons, Kierren added: "Your father was a God among men.”
A former comrade told The Sun: “Si was a strong lad and very good at his job. He never stopped going.
“He was mega protective and he looked after everybody that he worked with, sometimes to the detriment of himself.
My Dad was an inspiration to all who knew him, a real life hero who died fighting for what he believed in
“And he kept everyone else going. I couldn’t have higher praise for him.
“He had a proper northern attitude – front-spoken, no beating about the bush. You get what you see and there were plenty of jokes in him.”
His pal Damian Duckworth wrote: 'I'm absolutely gutted to be sharing this news about my bestest matey."
He added: "Fly high airborne."
And another pal added: "RIP Simon can’t describe how I feel right now, what a warrior.
"A real man. I’ll miss you mate."
His family launched a GoFundMe page to “give our local hero the send off he deserves”.
Jackson wrote: “My Dad was an inspiration to all who knew him, a real life hero who died fighting for what he believed in.
“He was loved and adored by so many a true representation of what a soldier should be.
"Me and Keane are absolutely heartbroken.
“The Ukrainian Military have offered to bring him home to England but we need help to show him the respect and adoration he deserves by giving him the greatest, well deserved send off.
“Could you all please find it in your heart to donate anything no matter how small so we can honour our Dad and allow him to finally Rest in Peace.”
More than £6,000 has been raised to honour Mr Lingard.
It comes as Vladimir Putin's troops have withdrawn from a key Ukrainian city in a move dubbed a "black page for Russia" by pro-Kremlin sources.
Russian forces have reportedly been forced out of the southern city of Kherson, gateway to Crimea and the largest city of one of the four territories annexed in September.
Putin's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday ordered his troops out of the city and across the Dnipro River to take up defensive lines.
In a meeting of senior military officials, General Sergei Surovikin, Russia's commander in Ukraine, said it was no longer possible to continue supplying the city.
He said: "In these circumstances, the most sensible option is to organise the defence along a barrier line along the river Dnipro."
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It marks one of Russia's most significant retreats since the start of the war and a potential turning point in the conflict that has raged since late February.
A pro-Kremlin blogger wrote on the messaging app Telegram: "This is a black page in the history of the Russian army. Of the Russian state. A tragic page."
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