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Putin and Shoigu commemorate paratroopers heroically killed in battle against extremists two decades ago RT Russia News

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Twenty years after heroic but largely overwhelmed paratroopers from Pskov courageously fought jihadist forces in the Russian Chechen Republic, President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu have honored the dead.

"Today … we commemorate the brave paratroopers, pay tribute to their courage and their heroic action", Putin said while examining the troops of the airborne division of Pskov. He and Shoigu arrived in the city of Pskov in northwest Russia, the hometown of Russia's oldest and most elite airborne division, to place flowers on a memorial for those who fell in Russia’s second anti-terrorist campaign in the early 2000s.

They opposed hundreds of activists and entered their last battle as true heroes, faithful to the best traditions of the brothers in arms dear to all generations of airborne troops.

The President also attended a memorial service in memory of the paratroopers at the local Church of St. George and met their loved ones.

Last Stand

The sixth company in Pskov's airborne division took its last position in late February 2000, when the anti-terrorist campaign was almost over. At that time, the Russian army sought to surround a large force of Chechen militants – supported by Arab mercenaries linked to Al-Qaeda – who were expelled from the Chechen capital of Grozny and stranded in the gorge. ; Argoun to the south of the city.

The paratroopers were ordered to take hold of a high point overhanging one of the passes leading out of the throat. However, before they even managed to reach their destination, they were attacked by the vanguard of the extremist force, which launched a surprise attack with the aim of getting out of the cauldron.

Soon, only 90 paratroopers found themselves facing the bulk of the jihadist force led by Khattab, one of the leaders of the Arab mercenaries of Al Qaeda, and the famous local warlord Shamil Basayev. Outnumbered by nearly 30 to 1, the paratroopers fought bravely against some 2,500 extremists between February 29 and March 1. The battle was so intense that Russian forces seeking to support the company could not make their way to the surrounded army.

Activists attacked the company wave after wave, "Eyes wide open and crying" Allahu Akbar! "", one of the few survivors of this battle, Guard Sergeant Andrey Proshnev later recalled.

On March 1, 2000, the few remaining paratroopers ran out of ammunition and their commander, Lt. Col. Mark Evtyukhin, launched an artillery attack against himself in an attempt to stop a massive attack by extremists .

Russian artillery plastered the hill, where the paratroopers were previously entrenched, with fire. Supported by artillery, the paratroopers ultimately killed between 400 and 500 extremists, including at least one high-ranking commander on the ground.




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Out of 90 paratroopers, 84 died, including 13 officers. Twenty-two of them received the country's highest military award – Heroes of Russia – posthumously, except one. Sixty-eight soldiers and officers also received the Order of Courage.

The remaining extremist forces still managed to break through the encirclement. However, all of the jihadist commanders leading the charge at the time, including Khattab and Basayev, were chased and killed in Russia's counterterrorism operations in the years that followed.

The heroic action of the paratroopers has since inspired a number of films, TV series and even a musical from 2004. Several books were also written on the stand, while various performers of Russian music – including the famous Alexandrov Ensemble of the Russian Armed Forces – dedicated songs to the memory of the paratroopers.

Russia is proud of its paratroopers, said Putin on Sunday, speaking to soldiers who have joined the ranks of the famous division, which has since participated in numerous operations. This includes the deployment of its medical specialists in Syria.

"We believe that you will firmly protect the interests of Russia, provide security and protect the lives of our citizens", said the president. "Thank you for your service."

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