Though Russia denies official involvement in Ukraine’s civil war, a Russian news site briefly reported Russia’s huge military casualties in Ukraine Tuesday.
Buried in a mundane report on army salaries, Delovaya Zhizn (Business Life) noted that family compensation went to the families of 2,000 soldiers killed “taking part in military action in Ukraine.” The information was briefly online before Russian censors detected the fact and took it offline — but not before a Ukraine-based news site detected the admission and cached it online.
That some 2,000 Russian service members have died, all fighting a war that the Kremlin does not acknowledge exists, is a staggering admission of President Vladimir Putin’s commitment to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian war has lasted for exactly 18 months — by comparison, the U.S.’ nearly 14-year involvement in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 2,154 American soldiers.
Besides the toll on Ukrainian and Russian fighters’ lives, the Russian intervention has also inflamed sanctions against Russia from European and North American governments. In response, Russia has embargoed food imports from a long list of Western countries, prompting a grocery crisis for Russian shoppers. (RELATED: Russian Muslims Traveling To Fight Against Russia’s Ukraine Invasion)
Forbes, which broke the story in English, pointed out that Putin recently declared all Russian military casualties, in wartime and peacetime alike, to be government-protected “state secrets.”
Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian lawmaker, was assassinated early this year while working on a report documenting Russian involvement in Ukraine. Besides suppressing the results of Nemtsov’s work, the Russian government has made efforts to downplay the investigation of the assassination. (RELATED: Russia Tries Every Tactic To Downplay Opposition Leader’s Murder)
In another sign of Putin’s stranglehold on information in Russia, Russian authorities moved on Monday to ban all of Wikipedia in the country — a move that was later walked back.
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