Did a Russian newspaper mistakenly reveal the number of Russian soldiers who died in combat?

In times of war, belligerents are reluctant to communicate their losses. At the beginning of March, ten days after the start of the offensive in Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense had at most acknowledged the death of 498 soldiers, before going radio silent. Sunday March 20, however, at the turn of an article, the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda finally seems to lift the veil: 9,861 Russian soldiers have already lost their lives since the beginning of the war and 16,153 have been injured. This passage was later removed from the article, without any explanation from the daily. However, it is still possible to consult the original version on this link*. But this grooming has fueled various hypotheses.

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Little noticed at first, this deleted passage has experienced renewed interest on social networks. Mykhaïlo Podolyak, Ukrainian presidential adviser and chief negotiator, in turn took up these figures on Monday evening. “The Russian art of lying is no longer of any use to them”, he wrote on social media (in English). “The Russian Ministry of Defense was officially forced to admit that it was not 500 soldiers who died in Ukraine, but 9,861.” The Ukrainian General Staff, for its part, claims that 15,000 Russian soldiers have died since the start of the conflict.

But where do the numbers come from? Komsomolskaya Pravda? The original version of the article referred to a Russian Ministry of Defense briefing – the video is available here*. But as the dissident Russian site Mediazona*, banned in Russia, points out, this official communication does not mention such figures at any time. The tabloid is the only media to have cited them. There remains the hypothesis, certainly unlikely, of another document to which the Komsomolsya Pravda.

In the meantime, the tabloid denounced a malicious act, in a message published on its site*. “Access to the admin interface has been hacked on the site and a fake has been added in the article.” Moscow, however, seems unwilling to provide such information. During a press conference on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the case. He kicked into touch, referring to the editorial staff of Komsomolsya Pravda. One of the journalists present on the spot then spoke, saying again that the site had been the victim of a hack.

Dmitri Peskov stopped there, without even bothering to deny it. “We do not have the power to speak during the military operation, it is a prerogative of the Ministry of Defence.” At this stage, the mystery therefore remains intact.

* All links marked with an asterisk lead to content in Russian.

source site-33