Russia: Deaths veiled in secret.


In Russia, the news of death comes in secretly.

The war victims are rarely mentioned on state television. The Ministry of Defense has not disclosed a death toll for almost three months. Lists of victims in their hometowns published by local websites were declared a state secret.

But the horrors of war are seeping through social media. Ukraine publishes images of enemy corpses on the social network Telegram, hoping to stir up disagreements in Russia. Photos of ruined Russian positions, such as the failed crossing of the Siversky Donets River last month, where at least 400 soldiers died, hint at the violence that killed countless young men.

“You stand there and your tears don’t even flow anymore,” Aleksandr Kononov, whose brother was killed in a battle in Mariupol, told The New York Times in April, recalling the dozens of black body bags he had seen on the floor. of a warehouse at a military morgue. “There is no more water in your body.”

Many relatives of Russian soldiers do not know for weeks or even months whether their sons, husbands and brothers are dead or alive. The Russian military bureaucracy, military lawyers say, appears to have been unprepared for the scale of casualties in Ukraine. The Defense Department, in its latest casualty announcement on March 25, put the death toll at 1,351. Western officials say the actual toll could now be more than 10 times higher.

Some families of the sailors who died aboard the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which numbered more than 500 crew, are still struggling to uncover the truth two months later. Dmitri Shkrebets, the outspoken father of a conscript aboard, published an angry Telegram post on Monday addressed to President Vladimir V. Putin.

“Why are you pretending nothing happened?” asked Mr. Shkrebets. “We will all die, but not all will be martyrs, someone will have to answer for the blood!”

It was a rare public expression of anger and frustration at the government of a military family. But to much of Russian society, the dead “do not make such a stunning impression,” Sergei Krivenko, who heads a rights group that provides legal aid to Russian soldiers, said in a telephone interview. In most cases, professional soldiers die instead of conscripts. They come disproportionately from poor regions, according to Russian journalists who have analyzed obituaries.

“They see deaths as — it’s hard to say ‘normal’, but in a sense as normal,” Mr Krivenko said.

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