Russia buries 18-year-old conscript - youngest victim of Ukraine war

Russia buries 18-year-old conscript – its youngest victim of the Ukraine war – as anger grows over Putin sending teenage soldiers as cannon fodder

  • Russian Yegor Pochkaenko, 18, was killed after being sent to fight in Ukraine
  • Pochkaenko is youngest declared Russian victim in Vladimir Putin’s war so far
  • He is one of a handful of dead Russian soldiers whose identities were revealed
  • Heartbreaking pictures show his funeral as he was called a ‘hero’ in hometown
  • Russia has buried an 18-year-old ex-conscript – its youngest declared victim of the Ukraine war so far – amid a row over sending teenage soldiers as cannon-fodder.

    Yegor Pochkaenko was killed the day before his 19th birthday, after being moved 5,360 miles across his country to fight in Vladimir Putin‘s conflict.

    He is one of only a handful dead Russian soldiers whose identities have been made public, and still fewer whose funerals have been pictured.

    Russia has failed to give reliable figures on its losses in a war it calls a ‘special military operation’, but the US has estimated the toll to be up to 6,000, with a vast number wounded.

    Yegor Pochkaenko (pictured) was killed the day before his 19th birthday, after being moved 5,360 miles across his country to fight in Vladimir Putin's conflict

    Yegor Pochkaenko (pictured) was killed the day before his 19th birthday, after being moved 5,360 miles across his country to fight in Vladimir Putin’s conflict

    Pochkaenko (pictured with mother Inna) is one of only a handful dead Russian soldiers whose identities have been made public

    Pochkaenko (pictured with mother Inna) is one of only a handful dead Russian soldiers whose identities have been made public

    Pochkaenko was hailed a ‘hero’ in his home town of Belogorsk in Amur region, but the acknowledgement of his death comes amid a dispute over the deployment of conscripts, some of whom are allegedly dragooned to enlist as contract soldiers.

    Putin had publicly denied conscripts – usually aged 18 and 19 – were deployed in Ukraine.

    But he was contradicted by his own defence ministry, whose spokesman Igor Konashenkov admitted: ‘Unfortunately, we have uncovered several instances of the presence of conscripts in the Russian units taking part in the special military operation in Ukraine.

    ‘Almost all of those servicemen have been taken back to Russia.’

    This enraged Putin who demanded the chief military prosecutor examine the evidence and ‘punish officials’ responsible for conscripts being deployed in Ukrainne.

    Pochkaenko – despite his young age – was reported to be a contract soldier having been earlier conscripted.

    Pochkaenko is among very few conscripts whose funerals have been pictured

    Pochkaenko is among very few conscripts whose funerals have been pictured

    Yegor Pochkaenko, soldier from the Far East of Russia, was killed in Ukraine on February 24

    Yegor Pochkaenko, soldier from the Far East of Russia, was killed in Ukraine on February 24

    Pochkaenko was hailed a 'hero' in his home town of Belogorsk in Amur region. Pictured:  The 18-year-old's funeral

    Pochkaenko was hailed a ‘hero’ in his home town of Belogorsk in Amur region. Pictured:  The 18-year-old’s funeral 

    But a Russian senator Lyudmila Narusova, 69, has claimed conscripts were forcibly ordered to sign up as contract soldiers – or it happened without their knowledge.

    She also told parliament that in one company of 100 young soldiers forced to fight in the conflict, only four survived.

    ‘They lie there, with stray dogs gnawing at their faces,’ she said.

    ‘Some cannot be identified because the bodies are so charred.’

    Her withering words are stinging for Putin since she is the widow of his political mentor and ex-law professor Anatoly Sobchak.

    She is also the mother of Ksenia Sobchak, 40, Russia’s leading opposition politician whose childhood baptism was attended by Putin.

    Pochkaenko was posthumously honoured with the Order of Courage by Putin – and he was given a military salute.

    ‘Yegor Pochkaenko died like a hero, not hiding behind the backs of his comrades,’ said army comrade Aleksey Tarasov.

    Large bouquets of flowers were left at the grave of Pochkaenko. He was killed after being sent to Ukraine to fight in Putin's war

    Large bouquets of flowers were left at the grave of Pochkaenko. He was killed after being sent to Ukraine to fight in Putin’s war

    Putin had publicly denied conscripts, usually aged 18 and 19, were deployed in Ukraine. But he was contradicted by his own defence ministry. Pictured: Pochkaenko's funeral

    Putin had publicly denied conscripts, usually aged 18 and 19, were deployed in Ukraine. But he was contradicted by his own defence ministry. Pictured: Pochkaenko’s funeral

    Russian senator Lyudmila Narusova (pictured), 69, has claimed conscripts were forcibly ordered to sign up as contract soldiers - or it happened without their knowledge

    Russian senator Lyudmila Narusova (pictured), 69, has claimed conscripts were forcibly ordered to sign up as contract soldiers – or it happened without their knowledge

    ‘He was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage.

    ‘We remember him as a good soldier, we will always remember him as a hero.

    ‘The Ministry of Defense offers condolences to the family and friends.’

    A classmate Dmitry Radchenko said his fallen friend was ‘kind and cheerful’ and loved football.

    He had wanted to be a policeman before joining the army.

    Andrey Dyumin, deputy prime minister of Amur region, six time zones east of Moscow, said: ‘He defended us all: our country, our residents.

    ‘Unfortunately, the short peaceful periods of life in our country have always been replaced by a series of wars, when someone thought that they could trample on our Motherland, tear it apart.

    ‘Thanks to men like Yegor, this will not work.’