The Syrian crisis has seen thousands of deaths on both sides, and is continuing to kill more as it drags on. The attacks on the Syrian city of Palmyra in 2015 and 2016 were operations to reclaim the city from the Islamic State insurgents. The Syrian Army, backed by the Russian Special Forces, conducted air strikes that finally let them recapture Palmyra on March 27, 2016.
In the midst of all the fighting, stories of bravery and heroism are many, and that of Alexander Prokhorenko stands out as one of immense sacrifice, unshakeable honor and duty. Prokhorenko was a soldier with the Russian Special Forces who chose to sacrifice his life during the Palmyra attacks in order to finish the mission.
A transcript released recently gives a clear picture of what happened in the final moments before Prokhorenko’s death. Stationed near Palmyra, Prokhorenko was in charge of directing the Russian air strikes on ISIS targets. He soon realized that he was alone, running low on ammunition and surrounded by the enemy. There were no escape routes that would allow him to get out without being captured.
Prokhorenko radioed his commander to report on his situation, and told the commander to go ahead with the air strikes, effectively killing him along with the terrorists. In the transcript, his words were, “I am surrounded, they are outside, I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform.”
Prokhorenko’s commander initially refused, ordering the soldier to find a way to get to safety before they gave the green light on the air strikes. Prokhorenko countered by saying that, “I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me. Please, my last wish, conduct the airstrike, they will kill me either way.”
The commander acknowledged the brave words, and ordered the air strikes to go ahead. Prokhorenko’s final words were to thank his commander, describe his wife as “the best wife in the world,” and proudly say that he was serving his beloved nation. His wife, Ekaterina, was said to be unaware that Prokhorenko was in Syria. They had been married for only 18 months and reportedly expecting their first child.