Saturday 24 February 2018

Russian special forces officer who 'ordered air strike on himself' to kill Isis militants

Senior Lieutenant Alexander Prokhorenko has been formally made a national hero

Alexander Prokhorenko died after ordering an air strike on himself in Palmyra on 17 March 2016, Russian defence officials said
Alexander Prokhorenko died after ordering an air strike on himself in Palmyra on 17 March 2016, Russian defence officials said

Lizzie Deardon

The body of a Russian special forces officer who ordered an air strike on himself after becoming surrounded by Isis militants in Syria has been returned home.

Senior Lieutenant Alexander Prokhorenko, 25, died last month during battles by regime forces and supporters to re-take the city of Palmyra.

Vladimir Putin awarded him the title of Hero of the Russian Federation and the Kremilin co-ordinated with Kurdish forces to recover and repatriate his body.

It arrived back in Moscow on Friday, the Russian defence ministry said.

“Following special joint steps taken with the participation of representatives of the Syrian authorities and the Kurdish militia, the officer’s body has been delivered to Moscow,” a spokesperson told Tass news agency.

“Returning the body of Hero of the Russian Federation…was a matter of honour for the Russian Defence Ministry.”

Lt Prokhorenko’s funeral will be held on 6 May in the village of Gorodki, in Russia’s Orenburg region.

The 25-year-old had been tasked with guiding Russian air strikes on Isis targets during the advance on Palmyra, also known as Tadmur, by Bashar al-Assad’s forces last month.

Lt Prokhorenko was hailed as a national hero after he reportedly ordered Russian planes to target his position when it became surrounded by militants on 17 March.

The so-called Islamic State was driven out of the city 10 days later.

The Russian President posthumously awarded Lt Prokhorenko the title of Hero of the Russian Federation “for courage and heroism in the performance of his military duties” earlier this month.

Palmyra, famed for its ancient ruins, had been overrun by Isis in May last year and became a backdrop for a series of gruesome execution videos.

Russian special forces have been on the ground in Syria since Mr Putin launched an intervention in support of the Syrian regime last September.

Colonel General Aleksandr Dvornikov said they conduct “ground reconnaissance” for air strikes in remote area, as well as other unspecified “tasks”.

At least eight Russian servicemen are believed to have died so far in Syria, including two pilots whose helicopter crashed earlier this month, the pilot of a fighter jet shot down by Turkey and a marine killed by rebels during a mission to rescue him.

Two others were killed in mortar attacks and bombardment, while a 19-year-old soldier died in disputed circumstances at his air base in Latakia.

The United Nations and humanitarian organisations have raised concern about the death of civilians and opposition fighters in Russian air strikes, but the Kremlin insists it has been targeting Isis and “terrorists”

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