A decorated war hero who had survived almost every major military campaign of Russia's modern history, earning him the moniker "The Russian Rambo," was mourned with honors Monday after being killed in a motorcycle accident.
A veteran of the Chechen and Georgian wars, Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Lebed died in Moscow on Friday after losing control of his bike. He was 48.
Born in Estonia when it was part of the Soviet Union, Lebed fulfilled his military service with the Air Force and took part in the 1980s Afghan campaign.
In a 2010 interview with Ogonyok magazine, he said the decaying situation in the army prompted him to resign in 1994. But he later joined a group of Russian military veterans who volunteered to go to the Balkans to fight during the Kosovo war.
When the second Chechen campaign was looming in 1999, Lebed bought himself military equipment and a ticket to Makhachkala, Dagestan, to become a volunteer with the combined militias.
"It'd take too much time to sign a contract, while there, in the mountains, the fuss had already started in August. We made it just in time," Lebed
When military action moved to Chechnya later that year, he signed a contract with the Defense Ministry, joining the Air Force's special forces.
Dubbed "The Russian Rambo" in some publications, Lebed lost a foot to a land mine but didn't resign, returning to service with a prosthesis in the North Caucasus a few months later. In several acts of battlefield heroism, he reportedly risked his life rescuing his men.
He was awarded the Hero of Russian Federation title in 2005. After taking part in the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, he received the Order of St. George fourth class, a very rare, high honor in Russia.
Senior military and state officials, including Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, the paratrooper commander, and Ingushetia's President Yunus-bek Yevkurov attended services for Lebed on Monday, Interfax reported.
President-elect Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov also sent their condolences to Lebed's relatives.