Nemtsov report: At least 220 Russian soldiers killed in fighting in Ukraine
At least 220 Russian soldiers were killed in two battles in Ukraine, according to a report scheduled for release on Tuesday based on open source materials gathered by slain Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.
At least 150 Russian troops were killed in August last year when Russia sent in its forces to halt the advances of Ukraine’s army, which was at that time threatening to crush a Russian-backed militant insurgency in the east of Ukraine, the report reads.
Another 70 Russian soldiers, at least, died in fighting in January and February this year around the town of Debaltseve, the report reads.
The report was compiled by associates of Nemtsov, who was shot to death on a bridge near the Kremlin in Moscow on February 27 this year. Colleagues of the opposition figure said Nemstov’s work on the report may have been one of the reasons for his killing.
The Russian authorities raided Nemtsov’s apartment shortly after he was killed, seizing computer hard drives and other materials, but enough evidence remained in the hands of Nemtsov’s associates for them to reconstruct the report for which he had been collecting evidence, the reports’ co-authors said.
Russia denies sending troops, weapons and ammunition into Ukraine to support the anti-government insurgency, but a growing body of evidence now indicates that Moscow has not only been fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but was probably responsible for starting it in the first place.
The report, named “Putin. War” is scheduled to be released in Moscow and Kyiv at 1000 GMT, and will be available at the Web site http://www.putin-itogi.ru/.
Russian business television channel RBK leaked some of the details of the report ahead of its release. The channel’s story on the report is available in Russian here , and in English translation by UNIAN staff below.
RBK: Nemtsov discovered 70 Russian soldiers were killed near Debaltseve
By Zhanna Ulyanova and Maxim Solopov
RBK has obtained a copy of the report "Putin. War" prepared by a group of experts using notes from [the late Russian opposition figure] Boris Nemtsov. The study attempts to evaluate the total losses of the army and the budget of Russia from war in Ukraine
How the text was prepared
The instigator of the report "Putin. War "on Russia's role in the annexation of Crimea and the possible participation of the Russian military in combat operations in Ukraine was co-chairman of the RPR-Parnassus and Yaroslavl regional Duma deputy Boris Nemtsov. The politician intended the report to contest the official version of events. “I’ve figured out what to do,” Nemtsov is quoted as saying in the report. “I have to write a report, called ‘Putin. War,’ publish it in huge numbers and hand it out on the streets. Tell people how Putin unleashed this war. This is the only way we’ll beat the propaganda.”
But the time was not given for Nemtsov to write the text of the report. On February 27 he was murdered near the Kremlin. His colleagues and friends say his work on the report was one of the theories for the motive for his murder. But Nemtsov did leave a plan for the report, handwritten notes, documents – all of which were used in the preparation of the report, the document says.
"Putin. War " is a 64-page report, combining evidence published earlier in the media, and Nemtsov’s own data on Moscow’s interference in Ukrainian politics and the presence of the Russian armed forces in the east of Ukraine. The study is divided into 11 chapters, covering events in Ukraine since the beginning of the revolution, when, according to the report, the Kremlin worked out a plan of action for "the return of Crimea" and up to the present time.
Working to create the report were former Deputy Prime Minister Alfred Koch, journalists Aider Muzhdabaevand Oleg Kashin, members of the political council of political party RPR-Parnas Ilya Yashin and Leonid Martyniuk, and the executive director of the party, Olga Shorina.
The report has been issued with an initial minimum print run of 2,000 copies - enough only to be given out at presentations, Yashin told RBK. Apart from in Moscow, presentations are planned in Russia’s regional centers - St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk and other cities. At the same time, a campaign will be started to raise funds to print more copies of the report for wider distribution. But the size of the next print run will depend on how much money is raised, said a member of the political council of RPR-Parnassus.
The printed report contains no publishing information: the print run and publisher are not indicated . It is only marked "Release: May 2015. Moscow City.” RPR-Parnassus did not disclose how much the report cost to publish.
Nemtsov and the paratroopers
Nemtsov started to collect materials for the report at the beginning of 2015. He worked with open sources a lot, finding people who could share information. He made deputies' inquiries to the [Russian security service the] FSB about the participation in the conflict in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk of armed people from Chechnya, and asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to verify reports on the participation of Russian troops in the fighting in the east of Ukraine. All of his inquiries went unanswered.
In early February, representatives of the relatives of Russian soldiers killed in the Donbass, in particular from Ivanovo, contacted Nemtsov. The politician made a note about this to his assistant Shorina. The materials of the report state that the relatives of the dead soldiers were seeking help to obtain compensation from the Ministry of Defence. They also talked about the mass deaths of Russian soldiers during the summer counteroffensive by [Russian-backed] militia near Ilovaisk in Ukraine and during the winter battles for Debaltseve. According to Nemtsov, about 70 troops from Russia were killed in Debaltseve, at least 17 of whom were paratroopers from Ivanovo. The Russian soldiers, before being sent to the Donbas, officially resigned from the Russian armed forces at the request of their commanders, the sources told Nemtsov.
In this way it was planned to hide the Russian soldiers participating in the battle under the cover of their being military volunteers. The soldiers’ commanders gave their word that in the case of the soldiers’ injury or death, their relatives would be eligible for compensation in amounts comparable to those that were paid in the summer of 2014, the report reads. But in actual fact the compensation never came.
Five abstracts from the report by Boris Nemtsov
At least 150 Russian soldiers were killed in August 2014, according to estimates of Nemtsov’s sources. The Ukrainian army was at that time on the offensive, but was halted by Russian troops near Ilovaisk. The relatives of Russian soldiers killed, according to the report, received RUB 2 million rubles, in return for a written promise not to disclose the circumstances of their relatives’ deaths.
About 70 Russian soldiers (including at least 17 paratroopers from Ivanovo), according to Nemtsov, died in January and February 2015 near the [Ukrainian] town of Debaltsevo. The representatives of the interests of the relatives of the servicemen turned to Nemtsov for help in February, because they could not get compensation. The report says that at that time Russian soldiers sent to the Donbas were being dismissed from the army and sent into battle as volunteers. The Russian Defense Ministry promised to pay compensation for deaths and injuries, despite the soldiers’ dismissal. However, according to the report, this promise was not fulfilled.
Russia spent about RUB 53 billion from its budget on the war in the southeast of Ukraine over ten months – according to one of the report’s co-authors, economist Sergei Aleksashenko. He said that RUB 21 billion had been required to pay 6,000 volunteers, RUB 25 billion to support of 30,000 local militants, and RUB 7 billion on the operation, maintenance and repair of military equipment.
The authorities of the Russian regions have spent RUB 80 billion on supporting refugees from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine since July 2014, the report also says, citing Aleksashenko.
Russians have lost RUB 2 trillion in salaries and RUB 750 billion in saving due to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, Aleksashenko estimated in the report. The economist said that due to Western sanctions and a retaliatory self-imposed Russian food embargo, food prices rose by a further 5.5%. That figure was used as the basis of his calculations.
Relatives were afraid to speak in public because they had signed nondisclosure agreements. Nemtsov was told by his sources that the relatives of the victims were threatened with criminal prosecution, and cited as an example a case against the mother of many children Svetlana Davydova on charges of treason in favor of Ukraine.
Nemtsov’s murder has convinced the relatives to give up their claims. "If Nemtsov can be shot near the Kremlin, then we can’t do anything for our clients in Ivanovo at all," the authors of the report quoted a lawyer the relatives of two dead Marines, giving the common position the families.
Ministry of Defense denies army's participation in the conflict denies.
The authors of the report did not appeal for assistance from well known human rights activists. "Boris did not appeal to us. Neither did Parnassus, nor Ilya Yashin, nor Vadim Prokhorov,” the executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia, Valentina Melnikova, told RBK. According to her, at a seminar of the regional organizations of the union their representatives also confirmed that no representative of the opposition had been trying to get information from them about Russian soldiers returning from Ukraine. Melnikova supported the attempt in the report to summarize the already known data.
A member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and the director of the human rights group "Citizen. Army. Rights" Sergei Krivenko also confirmed to RBK that none of the authors had consulted with him. Human rights defenders had no knowledge of the complaints of the relatives of the dead paratroopers from Ivanovo region. "The parents of the Kostroma paratroopers taken prisoner in Ukraine contacted us, but nobody from Ivanovo did," said Krivenko.
The Price for Russia
The annexation of Crimea, which started the armed conflict in the southeast of Ukraine, began as a fundamentally new way of strengthening the electoral position of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, the report’s authors said. Putin's approval ratings since the start of these operations has grown by 29%, reaching 74% by March 2015, according to FOM opinion polls. At the time of the publication of the report the state television channel Russia 1 was broadcasting the film "Crimea. Way back home," in which the president said openly that he had personally directed the actions of the Russian troops in Crimea.
The evaluation of Russian expenses ("How much the war with Ukraine costs"), was prepared by Director of Macroeconomics at the Research School of Economics and the former deputy chairman of the Central Bank Sergei Aleksashenko. The economist has estimated the losses to the Russian budget from annexing the Crimean peninsula and Russia’s participation in the military campaign in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. According to his estimates, the direct costs of the war in the southeast of Ukraine over 10 months amounted to about RUB 53 billion. (That is how much the expert estimates was spent on the volunteer militia, and the operation and maintenance of military equipment), while he estimates regional budgets have spent a total of RUB 80 billion on supporting refugees from Ukraine since July last year.
Political analyst Valery Khomyakov, a former ally of Nemtsov, recalled Nemtsov’s investigation into the ineffectiveness of the rescue of the hostages at 'Nord-Ost'. "He communicated with people, collected testimony from eyewitnesses, doctors. As a result, very important evidence was collected," said the expert. According to him, Nemtsov’s reports have an important educational role, even if they are just a review of already known facts. But the report is unlikely to have an impact on the situation in the country, or on the authorities, Khomyakov said.
"Previous reports were based on open sources and the data were put together to produce loud conclusions," said political analyst Alexander Pozhalov. The purpose of the report is not to reveal previously unknown information, but to draw attention to the subject and trigger a reaction from the West. The report will not prompt any policy responses on the part of the [Russian] authorities, Pozhalov said.