It’s said that the first casualty of war is truth. The following totals of Russia-Ukraine war losses all start from February 24, 2022.
Source: Ukrainian Memory Book – 35,000 regular Ukrainian military killed, 15,000 missing, 3,400 captured, up to 100,000 wounded, to Nov. 14, 2023.
Source: NATO estimates – 300,000+ regular Ukrainian military casualties, to Nov. 29, 2023.
Source: U.S. estimates – 120,000 regular Ukrainian military killed, 180,000 wounded, up to Aug. 18, 2023.
Source: UK estimates – 70,000 Russian military killed, 220,000 – 280,000 wounded, Nov 30, 2023.
Source: U.S. estimates – 315,000 Russian military casualties, to Dec. 11, 2023.
Source: Ukrainian government – 350,270 Russian military losses including 150 killed, to Dec 21, 2023.
Source: Russian estimates, BBC reported – 103,000+ Russian military killed, 206,000 wounded, to Dec. 21, 2023.
How wide is the gap between the Russian reality and what’s reported? In its investigation of the number of soldiers buried in Russia the BBC has concluded that the Defence Ministry has been some 40% lower in their published count of the dead.
The Centre for Strategic and International Studies found that more Russian troops have died in the first year of the current war than the combined total in all of the other conflicts since WWII. This puts Russian losses for the first year at 25 times deadlier than in Chechnya and 35 times more than in Afghanistan.
Russian media is prohibited by law to assess the veracity of official military counts of losses. It’s been decided that “revealing the number of military losses during a war or special military operation in a peaceful (sic.) period” can be classified as revealing secrets, which would be a crime.
We are willing to accept that both sides are promoting ‘facts’ and fiction that support their narrative, while obstructing contradictory claims. An appearance of progress must dominate to absolve them of any responsibility in loss of life and weaponry. A diplomatic solution is unacceptable, so both sides must raise the stakes to buttress public determination in this.
Surely it’s to be expected that Ukrainian estimates of Russian casualties are probably higher than the bona fide and vice versa. In focusing on other aspects of the war, depending on its positioning as a pro-Russia or pro-Kyiv news outlet, coverage of the war has also been radically different in describing such features as the success of sanctions, specific battlefront failures or victories, etc.
Although often skeptical, the West is still convinced that Russia cannot be trusted with the facts about the conflict. We’re satisfied that the open, liberal West can closely scrutinize official claims and enjoy unrestricted access to the actual situation.
Media critics would argue this to be too simplistic. We must take into account that political and military leaders have always attempted to cover up mistakes, to bolster homefront solidarity, and keep the troops positively focused.
But the freedom to expose misinformation, to uncover discrepancies in facts, to unmask any censorship limiting their ability to report and other traditional entitlements, gives Western journalists the right and also the duty to unveil any restrictions on their press freedoms. These are rights that autocratic regimes do not afford the media.
Seldom do we hear of the harassment or intimidation of the press by Western authorities. But any Russian journalist intending to bring attention to the disappearance of several dozen Russian journalists, is likely to become a similar victim.
Many centuries ago a Chinese military historian said “All warfare is based on deception”. Western reporters are entitled to detail the deceptions, even as it applies to their own government. Russian journalists …?
Eesti Elu/Estonian Life