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Russian Newspeak: “Killed at exercises on the border with Ukraine”

Halya Coynash

While Russia’s defence ministry continues – “for obvious reasons” –  to keep the lists of Russian soldiers’ deaths secret and denies that the soldiers died in Ukraine, pro-Kremlin media are planning programmes to convince young conscripts of the glory of defending their ‘Motherland’

Kremlin-loyal TV channels are working with the Russian defence ministry to produce programmes aimed at instilling young conscripts and others with pride in the military.  The plans coincide with the ministry’s ongoing silence about the deaths of Russian conscripts in Ukraine. 

Novaya Gazeta points out that since August this year and the first clear evidence of soldiers being killed in Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine, the defence ministry has not once  admitted that Russian soldiers are being sent to Ukraine.  It has not apologized to the parents of soldiers killed, nor has it named the number or published a list of those who have died. 

According to Sergei Krivenko, member of the President’s Human Rights Council, during an address to the council given by deputy defence minister Nikolai Pankov on Tuesday, Pankov avoided the word ‘Ukraine’ altogether.  “It was asserted that there are no Russian soldiers outside the country, but all those killed will receive the status “died fulfilling military duties” and their relatives will receive the due payments.”  Krivenko adds that when they asked directly where, in that case, the dead soldiers had come from, the defence ministry officials said that they wouldn’t talk about that.  

When mention was made of the secret funerals of the Pskov paratroopers, almost a whole regiment of whom are believed to have been killed, Pankov claimed that the ministry had no intention of concealing any deaths.  He said that there were lists of people killed on his death, but that “for obvious reasons” they would not be making these public.

As reported, the Soldiers’ Mothers NGO, Lev Schlosberg who first revealed information about the Pskov paratroopers and other civic activists and journalists have been refused information about soldiers, including conscripts, killed because this is ‘personal data’ or with the claim that it falls under the state secrets act (see: Russian soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine: A web of lies and fake social network pages). 

The ministry is claiming that all deaths have been due to “accidents at training on the border with Ukraine”.  In fact, of course, the death of more than 4 or 5 people is a major incident leading to a commission, investigation and heads rolling.  There has been none of this, despite the numbers in the Pskov region alone being at very least 10 times higher than that.  The ministry has only stated that the families will receive all payments regardless of the soldier’s rank or circumstances of his death. 

Novaya reports that Yelena Tumanova, whose son Anton was killed outside Snizhne [in Ukraine] has received the relevant payments but not Anton’s things.  The commander claimed that nether his clothes, nor his mobile phone had been found. 

Yelena Petrovna says that those wounded were given bravery awards, but there was no posthumous award for Anton.  The reason this time is bitterly obvious:  the Russian military would have to admit that the 20-year-old who had not even finished his trial period had been killed in Ukraine.

Many of those killed have been conscripts and reports suggest that they were not given any choice with commanders telling them that if they didn’t sign the relevant documents, the commanders would sign for them.

As from next year, Pyervy Kanal [Channel 1] is planning a programme in which new conscripts will be invited to the Olympic sports complex to be ceremonious seen off to the army.  They will be wished success in defending their Motherland [Rodina] by representatives of the defence ministry, Moscow authorities and popular stars.  These are only plans for now but a representative of the channel says that it could become a “real festivity”.

Unlike the deaths of young lads which the defence ministry will try to say nothing about – “for obvious reasons”. 


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