Original source:

Retired Soviet General Valentin Varennikov died in Moscow on Wednesday at the age of 85.

Gen Varennikov joined the Red Army after graduating from an officers’ school in 1942 and was sent directly to the front.

He was wounded three times and was among a small group of war heroes given the honor of throwing captured nazi banners onto the pedestal of VI Lenin’s tomb during a 1945 victory parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

He served as the top Soviet military officer in Afghanistan, leaving the country briefly to help co-ordinate salvage efforts after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and was awarded the the Hero of the Soviet Union medal – his country’s highest honour.

Gen Varennikov backed the August 1991 coup that briefly ousted Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

He was arrested along with other coup plotters and imprisoned. But unlike others, he rejected a 1994 Kremlin amnesty and demanded a trial, which ended in his acquittal.

He went on to pursue a political career, winning election to parliament for the Communist Party in 1995 and again in 2003.