Putin’s wars come home to Russia — despite Moscow’s efforts to hide the bodies

His former commanders left this Russian soldier's corpse in the Ukrainian soil near Luhansk, at a site of the Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: RadioSvoboda.org)

His former commanders left this Russian soldier's corpse in the Ukrainian soil near Luhansk, at a site of the Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: RadioSvoboda.org) 

2016/12/07 - 00:52 • Analysis & Opinion, Military analysis, Russia, War in the Donbas

Russian combat losses in Ukraine are sufficiently large that they have already had an impact on demographic statistics, pushing up to anomalous heights the number of dead in three Russian regions in 2014-2015 and possibly prompting Moscow to send bodies to various places to conceal just how large these losses are, Tatyana Kolesova says.

Tatyana Kolesova  (Image: RFE/RL)

Tatyana Kolesova
(Image: RFE/RL)

Kolesova, who works with the Petersburg Observers group, told Radio Liberty’s Tatyana Voltskaya that the official figures were striking because the usual causes of mortality from accidents and alcoholism had not increased and yet the number of dead had soared in Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Krasnoyarsk oblasts.

She says that the only conclusion she could reach was that “the start of this anomalous mortality in May 2014 was connected with the fact that a significant number of Russians were participating in military actions on the territory of other countries,” in this case Ukraine.

In these three oblasts alone, she says, there were 6312 “excess” deaths in 2014 and 2015 than one would have expected on the basis of figures for the pre-war year of 2013. Moreover, increases in the number of deaths was marked in every month and not in one or two as one might have expected from an accident or an epidemic.

And there is another problem: officials clearly registered these deaths in these three places even if it may not have been the case that the people who died were from there, Kolesova says. That leads to suspicions that officials in these regions, but perhaps not in others, were prepared to cooperate with Moscow in seeking to hide these combat losses.

Given how many problems there are with official statistics in Russia, no final conclusions can yet be drawn, although one other expert confirmed Kolesova’s findings that the death numbers she points to were truly anomalous.

There is no reason to assume that the Russian government isn’t continuing to do the same thing now to hide continuing losses in Ukraine and Syria lest Russians come to recognize what the true cost of Putin’s wars are for them, especially given Moscow’s denial of Russian involvement in the former and downplaying of its ground role in the other.

But there is another reason to suspect that Moscow is trying to hide these losses: The Kremlin has a long tradition of seeking to cover up losses it doesn’t want anyone to talk about, not only in its reports about deaths from the Holodomor and the GULAG but in other far more recent events as well.

The author of these lines was exposed to a horrific example of this after the violent clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Sumqayit in February 1988 when Soviet officials shipped the bodies of victims to morgues across the USSR, so that no one place would know just how many died and in this case how they died.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Terry Washington

    As Malcolm X put it-“the chickens have come home to roost!” as they always do!

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    6315 deaths in 2014 and 2015, to which the dead of 2016 must be added. And this figure does not take the dead registered in the other regions of Dwarfstan into account. The total may not be far off 10,000 for less than three years of war. As a comparison, the war in Afghanistan officially cost the USSR about 14,500 dead and 50,000 wounded in ten years, but spread over a much larger population. Even so, Moscow was eventually forced to withdraw from Afghanistan.

  • Oknemfrod

    To believe in the Kremlin tales about no Russian troops in Ukraine and hence no related casualties requires turning one’s logic off and suspension of disbelief – on. First, without the regular Russian troops participating in the major hostilities of 2014-15 to stop the ATO offensive, the DNR/LNR cancer would have been long gone. But even after they were over, skirmishes and firefights, always started or provoked by the Russians, have been going on, with hardly a day passing without the Ukrainian side reporting losses mounting over time.

    To assume that at least equal losses haven’t been sustained by the other side is moronic, sine if it were the case, the Russians would be gaining ground, which they haven’t, and the only reason for the failure to have done so are their own personnel losses.

    Now from the fact that a few soldiers are lost almost daily, it’s a matter of simple arithmetic to figure out why the Kremlin needs a ruse to make the losses appear invisible or non-existent to an average vatnik. The scheme is well-rehearsed and the target vatnik audience, whose suspension of disbelief is unmatched, is perfectly tuned for its effect.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Don’t forget that it’s the Kolorads that are doing the attacking, and attackers usually suffer heavier losses than the defenders do. The supply of locals is drying up- even Girkin admitted two years ago that he could hardly get any local volunteers, even in Donetsk, a city of nominally 1 million. So that leaves Dwarfstanian mercenaries and “holidaymakers” from the Dwarfstanian army. And there’s also the trickle of casualties from Syria- or is it more than a mere trickle? If the report of some 600 killed Dwarfstanian “contractors” in Syria which appeared on this site a few months ago is accurate then the Gruz 200 and Gruz 300 flows are more than a mere trickle, a steady stream.
      Add the casualties from the Donbas and Syria, and the total may already well exceed the USSR’s official casualties in Afghanistan. Small wonder the dwarf is trying to keep the Donbas and Syria losses secret.

      • Oknemfrod

        A good analysis, Dag; certainly stands to reason.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          Keeping the dead secret is one thing. But how does one keep the wounded secret, especially the permanently disabled? Sooner or later they will leave the hospitals, and become visible in Dwarfstanian society. Is the dwarf going to explain the increase in visible disabled by claiming they are due to industrial accidents? This doesn’t make Dwarfstan’s industry look good, though their safety standards are generally nowhere near western standards. And WHICH accidents precisely will account for the surge in disabled, conincdentally since the start of Dwarfstan’s aggression in the Donbas and more recently Dwarfstan’s active involvement in Syria?

          • laker48

            There are on average three wounded for one dead, so their visibility will be very difficult if not impossible to hide.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            The dwarf could of course arrange for the permanently disabled wounded to be bumped off, in the same way as Germany got rid of its mentally handicapped in 1939 in the Aktion T4: by gassing and cremating the victims.
            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the dwarf starts such a programme at some point, especially if the true extent of Dwarfstan’s losses in the Donbas and Syria threaten to become public knowledge. He has already demonstrated that he doesn’t care about the lives of his own citizens- see Chechnya, Beslan, Nord-Ost, the 1999 apartment bombings for instance.

  • Mykola Potytorsky

    good news, cargo 200 must be very busy and that is really good. putin has no business being in Ukraine so let him bleed his terrorist armies. the more the merrier

    • laker48

      There are also at least eight portable crematoria able to “process” a few corpses a day in Donbas.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Each of those mobile crematoria can cremate 8-10 bodies per 24 hours, depending on body size/weight. Grand total is thus 64-80 per 24 hours. The dwarf’s army and terrorists must be suffering really severe casualties to need such a total capacity in Rostov oblast in addition to the local facilities.

  • Dirk Smith
    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Dare one say “The more the merrier!”??????

    • laker48

      Good riddance!

  • zorbatheturk

    RuSSiyan external aggression and the price of oil are positively correlated. In 1979 oil hit an oil time high (at that time) close to $40 a barrel, due to the Iranian revolution ousting the Shah. An arrogant RuSSia invaded Afghanistan. By 1986 oil had collapsed to $10 a barrel. In 1989 with the world heading into a bad recession it was still only trading around $14. RuSSia crept out of Afghanistan, having accomplished nothing except radicalizing the locals. Which ultimately led to 9/11. Thanks, RuSSians.

    March 2014 RuSSia annexes Crimea. Oil price $107.

    Oil today $47. Mr Putin is running out of money.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      At $55 US shale oil is quite profitable so the price won’t go up much further. Technology improvements have reduced the cost of US shale oil to around $30 so it’s not unrealistic to see a drop to well below $50, regardless of the OPEC oil deal- and we know how well OPEC members stick to any agreement…. NOT!

      • laker48

        Right on the money! The shale producers have likely hedged their bets with cheap futures contracts allowing them to lock their sale prices at the current levels for often more than two years.

    • laker48

      Read these and have fun! Two Putler’s largest cash cows are dying a slow and painful death. The armed with nukes gas station masquerading as a country has its GDP 40% lower than 37 million California’s and 20% lower than 29 million Texas’s and it won’t be able to occupy Crimea, Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, and wage wars in SE Ukraine and Syria for too long. http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2015/01/oil-price-and-russian-politics
      http://www.economist.com/news/business/21573975-worlds-biggest-gas-producer-ailing-it-should-be-broken-up-russias-wounded-giant
      The civilised world keeps watching the bandits.

      At the price of $50 per barrel of WTI, all US shale producers become profitable and it takes them from one to four weeks to return to pumping full blast, so the $50-$60 per barrel of WTI glass ceiling cannot be negotiated for this very reason. We may see $30 per barrel of WTI by February or March next year. We’ll see tomorrow the weekly report of US crude, gasoline and distillate inventories reflecting real changes in their supply levels over the last week. The end of the fascist RuSSian Federation is inevitably coming.

      • zorbatheturk

        Gazprom’s stock market capitalization has collapsed. I scanned Gazprom’s 2015 Annual Report a while back, a very strange document. The people running it are Putin stooges through and through. A very corrupt corporation. Like all of RuSSia. $30 oil is certainly a possibility. Asia is living on credit, and the card is about maxed out. Record levels of consumer debt in Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore… while China’s credit bubble is off the charts. Financial crisis next year, bearish for commodities.

        • laker48

          We also need to factor in the Trump effect on China and Germany that was hopeful about the signing the TTIP and accessing US and Canadian markets duty and excise-free. The Greek and Italian banking sectors are on the brink of collapse, what may trigger the fall of the euro as a common currency within the eurozone.

          I’m still afraid that the corrupt Verkhovna Rada deputies and the Ukrainian government won’t fight corruption, what may turn off the Americans and the Brits. Read this, please! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38224388

          Trump may block all money flows from the US government to Ukraine, albeit he may release shipments of the most advanced US antitank weapons and M270 multiple rocket launchers.

          • zorbatheturk

            Any Eurozone banking crisis will harm RuSSia’s economy.

          • laker48

            Plus currency exchange losses, as Putker converted large US dollar reserves into euros in the first half of 2014. The Euro has been nosediving since the second half of 2014. Go to the 5-year time frame! https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/EURUSD:CUR

          • zorbatheturk

            Vladolf’s own money will be mostly in Swiss francs.

          • laker48

            You may be right.

          • zorbatheturk

            It won’t be in rubles, rupees, or rupiah. Only dollars, euros, and CHF for the Putler.

  • Scradje

    It would be better if they just gave up their habit of stealing other people’s land. If they cannot do that, then given the appalling failure of the other two Budapest signatories to take the neccessary decisive action, the victims of the occupation need to inflict as many losses on the invaders as possible.