Attacked for asking why Russian paratroopers died fighting in Ukraine
Lev Shlosberg, an opposition politician and journalist in Pskov was seriously attacked late on Friday evening, days after he divulged information about the Pskov paratroopers whose death in Ukraine Russia has been trying to conceal.
Russian Planet reports that Pskov journalist Alexei Semyonov was supposed to be meeting with Shlosberg. Semyonov explains that he saw the latter swaying and clutching his head, with blood all over his face and clothes. Shlosberg was hit around the head from behind but managed to turn and saw three assailants, with this seemingly confirmed by a passer-by who witnessed the attack.
Shlosberg’s article “The Dead and the Living” describes the funerals on Aug 25 of two paratroopers - Leonid Kichatkin and Alexander Osipov - in the village of Vybuty outside Pskov. It begins with the words: “The Russian state is trying to hide the fact that it is sending its sons to war, conceal how they die and where their funerals are taking place”.
Shlosberg recalls a similar attempt by the authorities to conceal a large number of deaths from a Pskov division in the Northern Caucuses in 2000. That tragedy and the deaths in Aug 2014 are linked by the wish of the authorities to muffle the information. In March 2000, however, the attempt failed, the authorities were forced to tell the truth and all of Pskov came to bid farewell to the men who died.
14 years later, the author points out, both the country’s political and military leadership are denying the very involvement of Russian soldiers in military action on Ukrainian territory as well as significant military losses.
He calls for an investigation into the deployment of Russian soldiers in military action in eastern Ukraine and ends by stressing that each Russian is not only able, but bears the duty to decide for him or herself whether they need “the living or the dead”. He writes that the future of Russia depends on their answer.
The server which holds the newspaper’s site was the first to come under attack. Then on Aug 26, journalists from Russian Planet, TV Dozhd and the St Petersburg Internet publication Fontanka were attacked as they tried to get to the cemetery and investigate the death of the paratroopers.
Now a courageous journalist and Yabloko deputy for the regional council has been subjected to a savage attack. He is in hospital with a head and skull injury and partial loss of memory.
As reported here, there have been surreal attempts over recent days to conceal the circumstances of the paratroopers’ death. In fact there was even a grotesque attempt to pretend that one of the men – Leonid Kichatkin – was still alive. It is clear that the families of the dead men have also come under heavy pressure, and evidence of the burial, as well as the plaques with (scant) details were removed.
Since information about the Pskov paratroopers appeared, more and more stories have emerged suggesting that the number of Russian soldiers killed fighting Moscow’s undeclared war against Ukraine, may be much higher, with the figure of 100 dead and 300 injured given by two members of the President’s advisory human rights committee.
It is also extremely likely that one of the real reasons for the scandalous ‘humanitarian convoy’ was to bring back the bodies of soldiers killed.
Russia is waging war against Ukraine and, effectively against any of its own citizens who protest against the aggression or try to get to the truth. It is typical that on Friday the Russian Justice Ministry informed that it had added the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of St Petersburg to the list of so-called ‘foreign agents’. The Soldiers’ Mothers, who are adamant that they receive no money from abroad, have played an active role over recent days in trying to discover and make public the whereabouts of Russian soldiers.
After the suffering and heavy losses which the Kremlin’s madness has inflicted on Ukraine, it would be unrealistic to expect pity for Russian soldiers. It is, however, increasingly clear that the Russian leadership is sending conscripts and contract soldiers given no choice to fight its undeclared war. They too are victims.