The Russian government pays lip service to the high number of deaths in its ranks. A change of tone that is undoubtedly intended to prepare Russian opinion for an even higher price.
Correspondent in Moscow
The issue is eminently delicate. From the beginning of his “special military operation” In Ukraine, the Russian authorities kept very quiet about the human and material losses suffered by the army. The same on the Ukrainian side, moreover, each of the protagonists is more talkative about the blows allegedly dealt to the opponent. But superiority over the role of the russian army, whether men or weapons, armor in particular, immediately drew attention to their difficulties. The Kremlin now admits that these are considerable. “We have suffered significant military losses”said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian presidency, during an interview Thursday night with Britain’s Sky News channel. “It is a great tragedy for us”added Mr. Peskov, who did not give figures.
In six weeks of conflict, only two official assessments have been provided. The first, on March 3, officially announced 498 dead soldiers and 1,597 wounded. The second, on March 29, reported 1,351 dead and 3,825 wounded in the ranks of the Russian army. Western sources estimate, for their part, that the Russian losses are much higher, from 7,000 to 15,000 men. Military historian Michel Goya told AFP this week that Russia seemed “having lost the equivalent of about thirty combined arms battle groups (GTIA)) of 120 committed and a maximum potential of around 140”. These reinforced battalions, which include around nine hundred soldiers each, are composed of a core of motorized infantry supported by armor and artillery.
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little by little this “operation” whose real name Russians must keep quiet is beginning to be a reality in the country. The bodies are repatriated, returned to the families and religious ceremonies are organized. Information about deceased servicemen sometimes appears in the media or on the websites of Russian regional administrations. Fragmentary data, some regions less “opaque” than others, which nevertheless make it possible to confirm the “profile” of the soldiers engaged in Ukraine and, in general, of the Russian army.
Published figures show that “dead soldiers are provincial, with an overrepresentation of poor regions (such as Buryatia, near Lake Baikal), but also regions with a high density of military units (this is also the case for Buryatia) and regions with a high birth rate (Dagestan )»points out Anna Colin Lebedev, a specialist in post-Soviet societies at the University of Paris-Nanterre. “This social fragility of the soldiers and their peripheral origins (Ukraine is very far away) will be useful to us to understand what they were forced to do in the field”the university estimated on her Twitter account.
The impact of military losses could be felt over time. The fifteen thousand “zinc coffins” that returned from Afghanistan – then over a period of ten years, from 1979 to 1989 – had had strong social repercussions. The Russian military is completing its redeployment from northern and central Ukraine to Donbass.
In this context, the Kremlin indicated on Friday that the“operation” could end in a “foreseeable future”, without further details, having achieved its objective, it is said. However, in eastern Ukraine the “mother of all battles” for “unifying” the Donbas. In this sense, the official admission of “significant losses” it is certainly aimed at preparing Russian opinion for an even higher price.
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