Russian authorities are transporting the dead bodies of Russia’s fallen soldiers from Ukraine back to Russia in “small batches” in the dead of night in an attempt to conceal just how many Russian troops are dying in Ukraine, according to intelligence shared by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
The intelligence—intercepted calls between Russian troops the SBU said it picked up in the Zaporozhye region—suggests that Russia is also transporting the corpses back to Russia in small groups in order to avoid suspicion that Russia’s invasion is sustaining massive losses or faltering in Ukraine, the SBU said.
“They are bringing them in small packs, so that people don’t freak out,” one of the callers said.
But the process is delaying the transport of the dead, forcing the parents and families of the troops to grieve over “half-decomposed cargo of 200” that are sometimes unrecognizable by the time they arrive, the SBU said.
The two soldiers allegedly caught on the call mention that the body of one of their dead comrades, Makeyevich, was in the process of getting transported back for approximately six days, and that his wife was getting worried.
“Did you send Makeyevich?”
“They brought him today, according to preliminary information,” one of the callers said. “They are supposed to identify him today.”
Many Russian troops and their families weren’t even aware they were headed into war in the last several months, a step that has likely left families already in the dark about the fate of their family members serving in the military as Russia has invaded Ukraine.
The Daily Beast has not independently verified the intercept or its claims.
But it wouldn’t be Russia’s first rodeo running sketchy operations to cover up war losses back home. Russia has long sought to cover up casualties of its service members. During the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Russia had its dead soldiers transported back to Russia in the middle of the night. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, families of Russian troops killed there were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements to avoid discussing how the soldiers died, according to a Kavkazsky Uzel report.
In other cases, the Russian government claimed soldiers that are suspected to have died in Ukraine were actually killed during training, or that they entered Ukraine in a volunteer capacity. In still more cases, Russian solders’ dead bodies were delivered to their families with simple notes stating they succumbed to their injuries, but without details about where or why they were injured.
The invasion in Ukraine now seems no different. Just in recent weeks Moscow has shared Russian casualty numbers that U.S. authorities say vastly undershoot the reality of the human toll of Putin’s war.
Russia’s casualties in the war in Ukraine continue to mount. Russia has so far lost 23,800 troops, with the greatest losses in recent days in Izyum, according to an analysis the General Staff of the Armed Services of Ukraine shared Monday. Ukrainian forces claimed in recent hours they had destroyed Russia’s command center in Izyum, along with a Russian general, Gen. Andrei Simonov.