Bato Basanov, 25, performed well in front of Russian officials at an international tank warfare competition last year, but his luck ran out when he arrived on a real battlefield
Image: social media/e2w)
A Russian world champion “hero” in an international tank warfare competition was killed when he was sent by Vladimir Putin into a real battle in Ukraine.
Bato Basanov was part of a record-breaking tank biathlon team that last year performed in war games in front of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
But his luck ran out on the battlefield when his tank was hit in Ukraine, killing him.
The 25-year-old is the latest of dozens of men from the impoverished Buryatia region about 3,500 miles east of Moscow to be killed in Putin’s war.
As two bereaved mothers in grieving Buryatia talked about recovering their sons’ bodies, one reportedly said to the other: “You’re lucky because your son’s body arrived intact. Mine came back with a head and two hands.”
Basanov, a corporal, was hailed last year for “glorifying Russia by becoming world tank biathlon champion with his team”.
He fired without missing a single target at speeds of up to 50 mph at the Alabino training ground in the Moscow region.
Yet, as a report by Volya Media puts it: “The death of Bato Basanov is a grim confirmation that tank biathlon and real warfare are completely different things.”
Russian commanders Shoigu and Gerasimov considered regular tank biathlon competitions key military prestige events, but the huge death toll among Russian forces shows that they were not ready for real war.
Basanov – whose Russian T-72B3 team has beaten soldiers from 19 countries in fighting games, including China – was introduced to Gerasimov, now in charge of Putin’s crumbling war effort.
Yet an unnamed Russian military expert blamed Putin’s government for botched modernization of the tanks, leaving them worse in optics and targeting technology than older Ukrainian tanks that were upgraded with Western equipment.
“Combat training in [Russian] tank units is disgusting,” he added.
The “shortcomings” led to Russia’s dismal performance in the war, he said.
Basanov was a gunner in the 1st Company of the Tank Battalion of the 37th Guards Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Air Defense Forces.
The body of the “hero” took seven weeks to be recovered and returned to his family for a funeral on Friday.
His friends and family said in a joint statement: “Bato was an open, responsive, very sociable man, a faithful comrade and friend, always ready to come to the rescue.
“Playful, smiling and sincere, Bato has always been the pride of our family, a kind, honest and much loved son.”