Oleg Leontyev, the Senior Lieutenant of Russia's Armed Forces, stood before the trial in his homeland, facing charges in the case of the death of Ilya Gorbunov, his comrade-in-arms. In his allocution, he said he took part in the campaign in the 'territory of the neighboring country where we were officially 'not present', which could very likely be Ukraine.
According to Meduza outlet, Leontyev asked the court to choose the sentence which would let him continue active service and join the contingent of the Russian military in Syria.
'If the court chooses so, I will take the next flight there and go there immediately. It will let me be of some use for the state. I already participated in one of such measures, although it was on the territory of the neighboring country, where 'we never were there', the outlet wrote.
According to the Russian media, Ilya Gorbunov deceased in Russia in February 2017. The prosecution insisted that Leontyev, his superior officer, ordered him to drive the tank, though the soldier was not trained as the tank driver. Before the trial, Gorbunov's family assumed he could be killed by his comrades-in-arms, who later staged his death inside the tank.
Russia has been denying any presence of its armed forces in the Donbas conflict. The Ukrainian side and international organizations have repeatedly shown proof of regular Russian troops fighting on the side of pro-Kremlin militants in this conflict, commanding some of the armed units, identified as parts of the 1st and the 2nd Russian Army corpses.
After numerous denials of the Russian government, a popular meme 'We were not there' appeared on the Internet.