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Pro-Kremlin tabloid reports 10,000 Russian troop deaths, then deletes it

Destroyed Russian armored vehicles on a roadway near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022. (Screenshot)
March 22, 2022

A Russian tabloid with close ties to the Russian government recently published and then deleted information describing nearly 10,000 Russian troop deaths – a detail the Russian government may not want out in the public.

In an article published on Sunday, the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote cited a Russian defense ministry assessment of 9,861 Russian troops killed and another 16,153 injured in the fighting. An archived version of the article shows the earlier Russian casualty assessment, but the article has since been updated, with the casualty assessments removed.

Komsomolskaya Pravda began as the youth publication of Pravda, a Soviet-era official publication of the then-ruling Communist party. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pravda is no longer a state-operated media outlet, but it retains ties with the Russian government. According to the Washington Examiner, the publication is now owned by Russian businessman Grigory Berezkin, who is chairman of the ESN Group and is reportedly closely associated with Russia’s state railway company.

The article now features the disclaimer, “On March 21, access to the administrator interface was hacked on the Komsomolskaya Pravda website and a fake stuffing was made in this publication about the situation around the special operation in Ukraine. Inaccurate information was immediately removed.”

The Russian news site did not present evidence of the alleged hacking. Archived article links captured more than six hours apart still showed the Russian casualty numbers in the article. After more than six hours, the article link did direct readers to an error page. It took nearly an hour for the article to reappear, this time without the Russian casualty numbers. It took more than seven more hours before the website first included its disclaimer, claiming the website was hacked.

With the Russian war in Ukraine approaching the end of its first month, thousands of Russians in the invasion force have been killed, but the exact numbers of casualties are hard to verify. As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian military claimed around 15,300 Russian troops have been killed so far in the fighting. By contrast, the Russian government has been less forthcoming about its casualties.

To date, the Russian government has only admitted 498 Russian troops killed and 1,597 wounded. The Russian government gave that casualty assessment on March 2, after a week of fighting and has provided no updates since.