Memorial plaque to Sergei Durkin. Photo: Defenders of the Fatherland Foundation / Komi Republic

He killed his drinking buddy with a stool and slept with a teenager. A school in the North Russian region of Komi will keep medals of the criminal turned “hero of the Special Military Operation”

Sergei Durkin, a native of the village of Ust-Tsilma in Komi, spent many years behind bars. From prison, he was recruited to fight in Ukraine where he was killed on November 9, 2022. A year later, the house he had lived in was decorated with a memorial plaque, while his awards, including those from the Wagner paramilitary group, were taken to a local school. The Barents Observer spoke with the soldier's sister and with the principal of the school where they intend to keep Durkin's awards, regardless of his past.
November 20, 2023


“Durkin S.N. took a stool with both hands by the two legs, swung it over his head with great physical force downwards and sharply hit the victim’s upper forehead and parietal area of the head with the seat… [The victim] suffered an open craniocerebral injury with fractures of the bones of the cranial vault and base of the skull, a cerebral contusion and a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This qualifies as grievous bodily harm, which, in this case, resulted in death.”

These are excerpts from the verdict against Ust-Tsilma resident Sergei Durkin and his accomplice, Pyotr Ulyashev. Together they beat their friend to death. Ulyashev kicked the victim while Durkin used an improvised tool: a stool.

The investigation concluded that the criminals did not intend to kill their victim, but intended to cause serious harm to health, which ultimately led to the man’s death. In October 2014, both were given 4.5 years in a maximum security colony.

The verdict can be found in the court database. The document states that Sergei Durkin had previously been convicted of theft and sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 (Part 2 of Article 134 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

On November 9, a person from of Ust-Tsilma with the same first and last name was killed in Ukraine. On the man’s personal page there are photographs from the colony from 2016. His sister, Elena Durkina, talks about her brother’s criminal past in very general terms, without details.

Sergey Durkin. Photo from personal social media page


“He went to juvenile prison. First the elder brother did time, then he… He lived in the village with a girl, and then something happened… There was some theft, and they put him in jail. Then there was the second time… The third time in February [2022] he was imprisoned for a year for a brawl, and in August he went to the Wagnerites.


We knew he was going there. We didn’t think that he would die like that… But kudoz to him for going. He got awards, and memory. Such is fate. It was his decision: he is the kind of person that if he decided, he would still go, he would not listen to anyone,”

—  says Elena Durkina.

The Defenders of the Fatherland Foundation in the Komi Republic reported that a memorial plaque was hung on Sergei’s house in Ust-Tsilma on November 1. As the mercenary’s sister says, Durkin received two awards for courage: one from the Wagner Group, and the other “from Putin.” She does not know the details of his death. The mercenary’s awards will be kept in the local school where he studied. According to the woman, the school itself asked for this: they want to dedicate a corner in the school museum to Durkin. Principal Maria Neustroyeva confirmed this information in a conversation with The Barents Observer.

“The medals were handed over to us only at the end of last week. We have drawn up the papers, but have not yet had time to put the medals on display. This is a graduate of our school – are we supposed to turn away from him? He’s been pardoned by the president! That means something!”

Maria Neustroyeva. Photo from the school page


The Barents Observer asked the principal how she felt about the fact that Sergei Durkin, whose memory they intend to preserve, fought in Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private army. Neustroyeva did not answer this question, but commented on the past of the “hero of the Special Military Operation”. In her opinion, Durkin simply became a victim of circumstances.

“A man, even with such a tragic fate… He had a short sentence left, but he chose to go to war. He wasn’t such a bad guy. Victim of the nineties. When his parents, who worked on a state farm, were left without work, and there were a lot of people who could not find their way around, their children were also abandoned. If it had been a different time, he would have been a normal guy, a hard worker. But he was a decent person overall.”

Elena Durkina also remembers her brother as a good man.

He was kind. He had many friends. Everyone comes to his grave and remembers him. He loved children and babysitting. He didn’t do anything to anyone. So cheerful…”

- says the woman and cries. Now that the awards have been handed over she’s left with Sergei’s watch, taken from his dead body.

The Ust-Tsilma school already knows how to honor the soldiers killed in Ukraine. They have commemorated another graduate, Ivan Pozdeev, who was awarded the title of Hero of Russia.

“There is a memorial plaque, a “hero’s desk,” and a board. We participated in the republican museum competition, and our museum took first place in the Special Military Operation category,” the principal says proudly. “And with Sergei, we are only at the beginning of the journey.”

Ust-Tsilma secondary school. Photo: school’s VKontakte page


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