In Stavropol cemetery, there is a new line of graves.
The fresh mounds of earth are covered in a sea of flowers. Decorating the graves, fluttering in the breeze, are military banners with emblems of elite Russian units.
Fixed to wooden crosses are the portraits of soldiers, their names and the dates they died.
The servicemen buried here lost their lives after 24 February: the start of President Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
At the cemetery I meet Dmitry. He lays red carnations at the grave of his former paratrooper comrade, an officer called Sergei Tysyachny.
“He was like a second father to me and the lads,” Dmitry tells me. “We love him, we respect him and we mourn for him.”
Such praise for a Russian soldier jars with events on the ground in Ukraine. The Kremlin may insist that its military offensive there is necessary and justified. But the UN Secretary-General calls it “a full-fledged invasion… in violation of the UN charter”.
There is also international outrage at reports of apparent Russian military atrocities and alleged war crimes.
“I don’t believe these fakes,” Dmitry says about war crime allegations levelled against some Russian soldiers. “I will never believe them.”I know how my commander, Sergei, taught us to act. I trust my comrades and my army. They would never do things like this.”
This is the reality of the tyrant. Deception and murder. This is what the tryant wants – and he doesn’t care who suffers. Dmitry grieves. The tryant is happy. What an ugly thing we are dealing with. Let’snot give way to any compassion. The tyrant must be destroyed.