World kickboxing champ who fought in Ukraine from day one killed by Russians

A world kickboxing champion who fought on the Ukraine frontline from the very first day of the conflict has been killed by a Russian bullet.

Tributes have poured in for Ukrainian fighter Vitaly Merinov, 32, was killed on March 31.

Mayor of Frankivsk, Ruslan Martsynkiv, confirmed the sad news that Merniov died in hospital after being hit while fighting against despot Vladimir Putin's forces.

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The four-time kickboxing champion had previously been injured in the fighting but returned to the frontline soon afterward, then receiving a gunshot wound to the leg.

Speaking of the tragic death, Mayor Martsynkiv said: "During one of the fights, Vitaly received a gunshot wound in his leg. He recovered and returned to the front again and defended Ukraine to the last breath.

"He has a wife and a two-year-old daughter left. Sincere condolences to the family and loved ones. Eternal memory to the Hero!"

The 32-year-old, according to The Sun, had signed up for frontline duties on the first day of the Russian invasion back in February 2022.

Vitaly leaves behind a wife and daughter.

One tribute from two-time Winter Olympian Vladyslav Heraskevych, read: "Vitaly Merinov died at night from wounds received in battle.

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"Four-time world kickboxing champion Vitaly went to war on the very first day of the full-scale invasion. He defended Ukraine until his last breath."

Another tribute read: "Vitaly Merinov died fighting for freedom, Justice & democracy. This hero will not be forgotten."

Vitaly's contributions to sport had earned him the title of master of sports in boxing as well as a champion run in MMA.

Ukraine's sports minister Vadym Huttsait revealed the Russian invasion had now taken the lives of 262 Ukrainian athletes.

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