Australian army veteran killed during heavy Russian offensives around Bakhmut while serving in special mercenary unit

An Australian army veteran has been confirmed dead in a Russian military strike on eastern Ukraine last month.

The former soldier, reported by the ABC as Matthew Jepson, is understood to have been killed in the region of Avdiivka in October along with several other foreign military members after Russian forces unleashed a heavy artillery attack in the war-torn country.

DFAT provided confirmation on the man’s death after initial reports by the national broadcaster and said the government was in the process of providing support for his family at home.  

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian who died in Ukraine,” a DFAT spokesperson told

“We send our deepest condolences to the family at this difficult time. Owing to our privacy obligations we cannot provide further comment.”

Reports surfaced online which suggested Jepson had been serving in a special mercenary unit under the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) known as “The Chosen Company”.

The elite contingent, assigned to the UAF’s 59th motorise brigade, was comprised of soldiers from various foreign militaries who died in the fighting – including from the United States – and was described on social media as a unit with the “highest casualty ratio”.

The strikes come as Moscow ramps up its offensives in the eastern parts of Ukraine to gain a foothold of territory around Bakhmut after gaining control of the city earlier this year in May.

Russian troops have launched more than two dozen aerial strikes and about 700 artillery barrages since the recent round of fighting broke out, with Ukrainian forces repelling the attacks while attempting to regain lost territory with their counteroffensives.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, a number of other Australian soldiers who joined the war effort are known to have died during warfare.

The death of Melbourne man Sage O’Donnell in December 2022 was the most recent before Jepson’s.

Other Australians killed defending Ukraine include Trevor Kjedlal and Jed William Danahay from Queensland last year, along with Michael O’Neill from Tasmania who died providing humanitarian assistance.

The federal government continues to advise Australians against any travel to Ukraine given the threats posed by the conflict and Australia’s limited diplomatic provisions in the region.

Estimates around how many Australian army personnel serve and have served in Ukraine alongside non-government armed factions remains unclear.

Sources told the ABC last year up to 200 citizens may have been involved in the European war although DFAT has declined to confirm this figure.  

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