Deep in Siberia, a village buries soldier killed in Ukraine
Dozens of mourners trudged through the snow in a remote Siberian village on Thursday to pay last respects to Sergei Sokolov, a young Russian serviceman killed in Ukraine.
It was one of the first funerals of Russian soldiers in the conflict launched by President Vladimir Putin a month ago, which Moscow says has killed almost 500 of its troops, while Kyiv puts the figure much higher.
Sokolov, a 21-year-old paratrooper, was laid to rest in his remote home village of Zubkovo in western Siberia, close to the border with Kazakhstan, more than 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) from Ukraine.
Carrying flowers and a wreath decorated with a red star, mourners filed into a local community centre, some of them in tears.
Inside, Sokolov's coffin was draped with the white-blue-and-red Russian flag, his blue paratrooper beret resting on top. A photograph of the soldier was fixed to a black curtain on the wall.
An elderly woman stroked the flag, while another touched his beret, as other mourners cried quietly and wiped their eyes.
"A soldier in the Russian army died heroically in a special operation in Ukraine," Oksana Semyonova, the head of the district authorities, said into a microphone, wearing a patriotic ribbon symbolising Soviet World War II victory on her chest.
"They will yet write books about this war, they will glorify this war in songs and poems," she said.
"Every battle will be described with exactitude to the minute," she proclaimed.
"Today we are already hearing the names of dead fighters across the whole country".
Russia's military action in Ukraine has sparked global outrage and prompted devastating Western sanctions, as well as triggered the departure of many Russians from the country.
But in this small village, Sokolov's death is treated with all the usual respect for a Russian soldier who died in the service of his motherland.
"Generations change, times change, but Russian patriotism, a keen sense of justice and care for loved ones remains unchanged," Semyonova said.
A soldier spoke of his "comrade in arms", who was "true to his military oath and performed his military duty to the last day".
The Russian government says its operation in Ukraine is to "demilitarise" and "denazify" its neighbour.
The Novosibirsk region where Zubkovo is located held a day of mourning on Thursday with flags lowered and teachers holding special lessons in schools.
Semyonova wrote on social media that Sokolov was a "true patriot, a worthy son of Russia".