Syria conflict: Body of Russian 'hero' flown home
The body of a Russian officer killed near Palmyra during a battle against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants has arrived back in Moscow from Syria.
Tass news agency said special forces Snr Lt Alexander Prokhorenko was posthumously awarded the Hero of Russia medal by President Vladimir Putin.
He died after calling in a Russian air strike to hit IS fighters who had surrounded him, Russian media reported.
Syrian and Russian forces ousted IS from Palmyra on 27 March.
On 18 March IS claimed it had killed five Russian soldiers in fighting around Palmyra. IS published photos of what it said were their mobile phones and video footage of a bloodied corpse. There was no confirmation of the deaths from Russia at the time.
Many precious sculptures were smashed by IS in Palmyra, causing international outrage.
Now a Unesco world heritage site, Palmyra was a flourishing city in antiquity. UN experts say the site has retained much of its integrity and authenticity, despite the IS damage.
The Russian defence ministry reported Prokhorenko's death on 24 March.
According to the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Prokhorenko directed a Russian air strike on IS after telling his commander by radio: "I'm surrounded - they're here, I don't want them to get me".
A transcript of the radio message appeared on social media. "I request an air strike. They'll mutilate me and my uniform. I want to die with dignity, and I want all these scumbags to die with me. Please fulfil my last request," he was quoted as saying.
His body fell into IS hands, but later Syrian Kurdish rebels in the YPG militia managed to recover it and hand it over to the Russian military, Rossiiskaya Gazeta said. The AFP news agency also reported that version of events.
Tass says Prokhorenko will be buried on 6 May in Gorodki, a village in the Orenburg region of central Russia.
After the recapture of Palmyra parts of the site were de-mined by Russian sappers.
Russia is helping the Syrian government forces of President Bashar al-Assad against IS and other rebel groups, mainly supporting the Syrian army with air strikes.