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AP PHOTOS: War-themed murals in Kyiv honor Ukraine’s fallen soldiers

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Set against the blue and yellow of Ukraine’s flag, the vast image of a masked fighter holding a grey-and-white cat towers over a street on the side of an apartment block in Kyiv.

The painting depicts volunteer Oleksiy Movchan, a 49-year-old who was killed by Russian shelling in May 2022 in the eastern Donetsk region shortly after he and three of his fellow soldiers rescued 11 civilians and the cat.

The image reproduced from a photo taken moments before Movchan died is one of two dozen war-themed murals capturing fallen soldiers, legendary figures and key moments in the grueling conflict that have appeared on the city’s walls since Russia’s full-scale invasion began two years ago.

A mural depicts a Ukrainian pilot showing a thumbs-up sign on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The mural refers to a city legend of the Ghost of Kyiv, a flying ace who shot down six Russian pilots in the first 30 hours of the Russian invasion in February 2022 defending the sky over the capital. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts a Ukrainian pilot showing a thumbs-up sign on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In one mural, a fighter pilot making a thumbs-up sign fills a wall in a Kyiv neighborhood. It’s a reference to a famous photo that circulated in the early months of the war, purportedly showing the “Ghost of Kyiv” — a mythical pilot who was celebrated for shooting down multiple Russian planes over the capital in the first hours of the invasion but who Ukraine’s air force later admitted never actually existed.

The phenomenon of vivid street paintings brightening the drab grey walls of apartment buildings is not new in Ukraine. Before the war, those images depicted fairy tales, outstanding musicians and national figures. Now they honor volunteer soldiers and others who have become well-known symbols of heroism and resistance over the past two years.

Saint Javelin, an image depicting a religious-icon figure cradling a U.S. Javelin anti-tank weapon, was a meme developed by Ukrainian-Canadian former journalist Christian Borys to raise money for the war effort. The image soon went viral appearing on anything from T-shirts to tote bags, flags to socks. Sales of merchandise from the site raised over $2 million for aid and military equipment.

A mural on the wall of an apartment building depicts Saint Javelin, an internet meme and fictional character in an icon style cradling the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapon that the Ukrainian army used against the Russian troops, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Saint Javelin is a symbol of resistance against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural on the wall of an apartment building depicts Saint Javelin, an internet meme and fictional character in an icon style cradling the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapon that the Ukrainian army used against the Russian troops, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Children look at a mural depicting a terrier called Patron (cartridge), a detecting dog and a mascot for Ukraine's Emergency Situation Service, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Patron, born 2019, was awarded with home and foreign awards for his work in locating and defusing unexploded ordnance left behind by Russian troops. On November 2022, UNICEF recognised Patron as the "Goodwill AmbassaDOG" in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Children look at a mural depicting a terrier called Patron (cartridge), a detecting dog and a mascot for Ukraine’s Emergency Situation Service, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Patron, born 2019, was awarded with home and foreign awards for his work in locating and defusing unexploded ordnance left behind by Russian troops. On November 2022, UNICEF recognised Patron as the “Goodwill AmbassaDOG” in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In another painting, a legendary Jack Russell terrier called Patron (Cartridge) is immortalized on a wall in a city park. The 4-year-old dog renowned for assisting mine-clearing teams in the northern Chernihiv district became a mascot for Ukraine’s emergency services. He was awarded the state medal by President Zelenskyy and recognized as the first “Goodwill AmbassaDOG” by UNICEF.

Each of the huge images is painted by different artists with permission of the city’s government. Movchen’s mural was commissioned by his wife Olena, Ukraine’s air force backed “the Ghost of Kyiv” and service members of the Azov Brigade supported the painting of their comrade, a former wrestling champion-turned-volunteer fighter Maksym Yalovtsov, 32, who was killed in September 2022 in an operation behind enemy lines in the Zaporizhzhia region.

At the bottom of the giant image that spans the length of a high-rise in the neighborhood where Yalovtsov once lived the text reads: “When your deeds speak louder than words, then your fame outruns light.”

A mural depicts Andriy Ogorodnik, 23, a soldier of Ukraine's Azov regiment, on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Ogorodnik was killed in a battle with Russian troops on April 26, 2022 while defending the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts Andriy Ogorodnik, 23, a soldier of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Ogorodnik was killed in a battle with Russian troops on April 26, 2022 while defending the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts a 19-year old soldier from Ukraine's National Guard, Roman Holomba, who shot down seven Russian jets and a missile with an Igla portable anti-aircraft missile system, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Holomba is the youngest soldier who was awarded with the state award of the Hero of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts a 19-year old soldier from Ukraine’s National Guard, Roman Holomba, who shot down seven Russian jets and a missile with an Igla portable anti-aircraft missile system, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Holomba is the youngest soldier who was awarded with the state award of the Hero of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A man passes by a mural based on a photo, which was taken during the Feb. 2023 soccer match between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split in Zagreb, on a retaining wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Dinamo Zagreb fans of the Bad Blue Boys paid tribute to Ukrainian soldiers, soccer fans, who had been killed in the battles with Russian troops, as they waved banners with their names and slogans "Glory to Ukraine!" to mark the first year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The biggest banner reads "Borodach Division", the name of a unit in the Azov Regiment created of soccer fans. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A man passes by a mural based on a photo, which was taken during the Feb. 2023 soccer match between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split in Zagreb, on a retaining wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Dinamo Zagreb fans of the Bad Blue Boys paid tribute to Ukrainian soldiers, soccer fans, who had been killed in the battles with Russian troops, as they waved banners with their names and slogans “Glory to Ukraine!” to mark the first year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The biggest banner reads “Borodach Division”, the name of a unit in the Azov Regiment created of soccer fans. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts Oleksandr Khmil, Ukrainian ice hockey champion and a volunteer soldier, on an apartment wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Khmil was killed in a fierce battle with the Russian troops near Bakhmut in Ukraine's east Donetsk region in May 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts Oleksandr Khmil, Ukrainian ice hockey champion and a volunteer soldier, on an apartment wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Khmil was killed in a fierce battle with the Russian troops near Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east Donetsk region in May 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts zoo volunteer Anastasia Tykha with dogs, on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Tykha saved some 30 dogs during fierce battles with the Russian troops in her home town of Irpin near Kyiv in March 2022. Some of the dogs were disabled. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts zoo volunteer Anastasia Tykha with dogs, on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Tykha saved some 30 dogs during fierce battles with the Russian troops in her home town of Irpin near Kyiv in March 2022. Some of the dogs were disabled. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts volunteer soldiers of the 3rd assault brigade to honour memory of their fellow soldier Serhiy Mashovets on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Mashovets was killed in 2022 defending capital Kyiv from the Russian troops. He was an ecology activist who wanted to create a natural park in his home city district. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural depicts volunteer soldiers of the 3rd assault brigade to honour memory of their fellow soldier Serhiy Mashovets on an apartment building wall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Mashovets was killed in 2022 defending capital Kyiv from the Russian troops. He was an ecology activist who wanted to create a natural park in his home city district. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural on an apartment building wall depicts Ukrainian volunteer soldier Maksym Yalovtsov, 32, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Yalovtsov, call-sign Regbist (rugby player), a wrestling coach and Dynamo Kyiv ultras, was killed in a battle with the Russian troops in 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A mural on an apartment building wall depicts Ukrainian volunteer soldier Maksym Yalovtsov, 32, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Yalovtsov, call-sign Regbist (rugby player), a wrestling coach and Dynamo Kyiv ultras, was killed in a battle with the Russian troops in 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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