The New York TimesThe New York Times

They left town as convicts. Will they be buried as heroes?

By Neil MacFarquhar

26 Mar 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

As the NYT reports, tensions rise in Russian villages over the return of fallen Wagner mercenaries with violent criminal pasts. Are they heroes or criminals?

When the corpse of a Wagner mercenary fighter arrived in his small Russian village in late February after he was killed fighting in Ukraine, some residents wanted to give him a hero’s burial. Others could not forget that the former prisoner had stabbed his father to death.

The ruckus prompted a stream of acrimonious comments on social media, with those demanding military honors for the fighter, Ilshat Askarov, flinging words like “Shame!” or “Traitor!” at opponents. Detractors called it a travesty to treat convicts who went to war for money as if they were regular soldiers.

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