The National Guard is saying that reports by Russian state media outlet Pravda(Which translates as “Truth” in Russia) that two members of the Tennessee National Guard were killed in Ukraine are “patently false.”

Pravda published a story earlier today claiming three “U.S. mercenaries” were killed when Russian forces attacked the city of Marinka in the Donetsk region.  The claims were said to be made on the Telegram social media channel of the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic. According to Pravda,

“In a backpack near the remains of one of the militants, a Tennessee flag of the United States was found, as well as other items that made it possible to identify the deceased as Captain Michael Hawker, Lieutenant Logan Shrum and Lieutenant Cruz Toblin,”

The National Guard’s Bureau of Public Affairs issued a press release just hours later calling their claims not only false but probably a deliberate fabrication, “The reporting by “Pravda” is patently false. The three soldiers identified in the article are either current or former members of the Tennessee National Guard,” according to the Office of the Tennessee Adjutant General. “They are accounted for, safe and not, as the article headline erroneously states, US mercenaries killed in Donetsk People’s Republic.”

The National Guard believes the false claims by Pravda were based on photos and stories lifted from Department of Defense media releases regarding a 2018 deployment of the Tennessee Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment to Ukraine as part of Multinational Training Group which assisted Ukraine armed forces with training.


Group photo of the newly spurred troopers after the Order of the Spur induction ceremony held at the Yavoriv Combat training Center, Ukraine, April 8. DoD photo by Sgt Timothy Massey

During this deployment, some 200 soldiers trained with Ukraine soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center. This training worked on the development of Ukraine’s training cadre, its ranges and training areas; its equipment and instrumentation requirements, and working to create a realistic operational training environment for Ukrainian soldiers coming to the training center.

All members of this Tennessee National Guard returned safely to the U.S. and their home state in 2019 following their deployment.