December 14th 2000 · Prague Watchdog · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS

Official Russian Casualties: Juggling with False Figures

Russian authorities manipulate even the already false numbers of casualties among federal forces in Chechnya

Casualty numbers are often used by a combating party to demonstrate its successful operations and influence public opinion. So why might it prove useful to keep track of the officially reported numbers of casualties? Because sooner or later these either confirm or question the information provided.

On September 13, 2000 Prague Watchdog ( published within its coverage of the information war a comparative report on casualties officially announced by either of the combating parties. They were the numbers provided by Chechen sources (KavkazCenter, Azzam Publications, and others), the Russian sources (General Staff, ITAR-TASS, AVN and others), and sometimes also international news agencies and organizations (BBC, AP, Reuters and others). Following are a few comments on the Russian casualty numbers.

For example, one of the last well-documented statements by the Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Manilov, dates back to August 3:

Russian soldiers killed: 2,585
Russian soldiers wounded: 7,505
Chechen rebels killed: 13,000
Chechen civilians killed: 1,000

Between August 10 and October 5 the General Staff of the Russian Army informed the public about weekly losses on the Russian side:

Week Killed (Defense + Interior) Wounded (Defense + Interior) Source
Aug 10 - 17 38 (22+16) 116 (79+37) MoD, CTK
Aug 17 - 24 17 (7+10) 52 (27+25) GAS, ITAR
Aug 18 - 31 15 50 Manilov
Aug 31 - Sep 7 19 90 MoD
Sep 7 - 14 9 66 MoD
Sep 14 - 21 19 51 MoD
Sep 28 - Oct 4 20 48 Manilov
Oct 1, 1999 - Oct 4, 2000 2472 (1644+828) 7076 (4603+2473) Manilov

The history of two months shows that officially every month some 65 Russian soldiers were killed and 220 wounded on average. According to Manilov's statement of August 3, the number in late September should stand at around 2,700 killed and 7,900 wounded. Manilov, however, changed the initial date for counting to arrive at lower numbers. Fighting in Dagestan started in August 1999, Chechnya campaign was launched on September 1, but Manilov indicates October 1 as the initial day for his counts.

Thus on Oct 4, 2000 Gen. Manilov came out with 2,472 killed (of which 1,644 were servicemen of the Interior Ministry) and 7,076 wounded. One and a half month later, on Nov 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of 2,600 (1,670) dead. Compared to Manilov's statement of August 3 (2,585 dead), this sounds very unrealistic. Still, we do not know what date Putin meant was the initial date for "his" count. An important and recurring feature of manipulation with casualty numbers is obvious here: Shuffeling with numbers includes also shuffeling with dates.

Starting from early October the Russian Defense Ministry stopped publishing weekly information on casualties in early October, apparently for two reasons:

- the information became contradictory in such an obvious way and was questioned so much that it lost the last rests of trustworthiness and it proved better not to provide any information at all
- despite various statements made by Russian generals, politicians, and pro-Russian administration in Chechnya, no end to the military operations was in sight, meaning that the total casualties would keep increasing for an unknown period of time.

This and other cases of juggling with figures are not only embarrassing but also absurd at the same time because the official numbers of casualties simply do not correspond with the truth. As stated in our previous article, the numbers reported by the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia (UCSMR) are much higher than the official figures. Current estimates of the UCSMR double the official counts provided by the Russian army officials. The statement of the UCSMR on casualty counts in the second Chechen war can be found here.

Once again, the reason for putting these numbers together is to document the evidence of the Russian authorities' manipulation of public opinion. But the numbers mean real people who lost their lives for the course of their leaders. Here is a list of dead Russian soldiers, which had been published by the UCSMR in Russian military weekly Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye. We publish this list because every wasted human life is a tragedy, regardless of the ethnicity or the nationality of the person. The list of all human lives that have been wasted in the conflict would be much longer. However, such a list will never be put together.


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