Europe

Syria conflict: Russian 'hero' buried with military pomp

Russian honour guard for Prokhorenko, 5 May 16 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Russians are mourning an officer said to have died heroically in Syria

A Russian special forces officer killed in Syria after calling in an air strike against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants has been buried as a national hero in his home village.

The coffin of Lt Alexander Prokhorenko was draped in a Russian flag and had a solemn military escort when it arrived back in Moscow.

Hundreds attended the funeral in Gorodki, central Russia. His old school and a street are being named after him.

He died during fighting near Palmyra.

Prokhorenko did not surrender to IS militants who had surrounded him, the Russian military says. Instead, he called in Russian aircraft to bomb the militants - and he died too, on 17 March.

Friday was a day of mourning in Russia's central Orenburg region in his honour, with flags lowered on public buildings. A street in the city of Orenburg will bear his name.

He was posthumously awarded the Hero of Russia medal by President Vladimir Putin.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption It is unusual for Russia to draw attention to its war dead - but it sees Syria as a successful campaign

Russia has made the world-renowned ancient site of Palmyra a symbol of its campaign in Syria.

IS jihadists smashed many precious sculptures there before Syrian government troops, backed by Russian air power, pushed them out on 27 March.

IS claimed that it killed five Russian troops near Palmyra - but the Russian military did not confirm that figure. Russia has said little about its ground operations in Syria, instead giving much coverage to its air strikes.

The famous Russian conductor Valery Gergiev staged a televised classical concert in Palmyra's Roman amphitheatre on Thursday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Palmyra: A Russian soldier in the ancient ruins, 7 Apr 16