Black belt teen Vladislav Balakhnin killed in attack on unidentified airport during invasion of Ukraine, body returned to Russia
Image: social media/e2w)
A teenage karate star has become the youngest Russian soldier to be killed by Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine war.
Vladislav Balakhnin, 18, is a black belt like the Kremlin dictator and has won national competitions.
After his death on the battlefield, it took Russian invasion forces nearly a month to return his body to his recently held funeral with full military honors.
He was killed on March 8 when Putin’s forces attacked an unidentified Ukrainian airport.
Vladislav was drafted into the army last year and signed on contract in February, a process critics say is a backdoor for forcing teens to enlist as cannon fodder on the Ukrainian front.
His grieving mother Rosa recalled the last time she spoke to him on February 13, when Putin sent tens of thousands of soldiers west to a “military exercise” close to Ukraine, when she vowed not to invade.
“He said ‘Mom, we’re leaving. Don’t look for me, don’t call. There will be no (phone) coverage. Everything will be fine’.”
Rosa said he liked karate and boxing and never drank or smoked.
Vladislav was pictured with his parents and his girlfriend at his school prom about nine months before he was killed.
The 18-year-old later joined the special forces of the Russian National Guard and “dreamed of winning a maroon beret,” his mother said.
“He trained a lot to prepare for the army,” she told Ura.ru.
“When he signed the contract, he did it to get that dream maroon beret.”
He was supposed to be 19 in July and was the youngest Russian soldier so far declared dead in the war, which the Kremlin insists was a “special military operation.”
Russia is now experiencing an increasing number of military funerals as the scale of losses from catastrophic wars grows.
So far, the figure — much higher than what the Kremlin has publicly acknowledged — has not sparked a political or public backlash against Putin.
Ukraine claims Russia killed 18,300 people in the war.
However, Russia has failed to provide statistics on its war losses due to suspicions that it was trying to cover up real war casualties.
In 2014 – the year he seized Crimea from Ukraine – Putin earned a black belt in Kyokushin-kan, a full-contact form of karate that doesn’t wear protective gear and doesn’t allow hitting opponents with the hands ‘s head.
Putin’s black belt in taekwondo was cancelled in protest after his war on Ukraine.