Bitter war bill

13 thousand or 50 thousand were killed in the Donbass?

How many lives actually did the battles near Donetsk, Lugansk, Debaltsovo and Slavic take?

During the conflict in the Donbas from April 2014 to December 2018, from 12.8 thousand to 13 thousand people died. Such data in response to a request from the German Dpa news agency was led by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Kiev.

The number of civilian casualties is approximately 3.3 thousand people, the losses of the Ukrainian military personnel are 4 thousand, the armies of the Donbas republics are 5.5 thousand, the report says. Wounded during the conflict were from 27 to 30 thousand people.

According to the Monitoring Mission, last year 55 civilians died, 224 were injured. At the same time in April last year, the UN called the total death toll since the beginning of the war – 2.5 thousand civilians, the number of injured – more than nine thousand.

Are there any glaring differences in numbers?

Note also that in the West, there were other calculations, the results of which are even more different from the above. So, in 2015, the German intelligence service counted a total of 50 thousand dead in eastern Ukraine. The figures are almost ten times higher than those for the dead of Kiev or the UN. However, in Germany, they expressed confidence that the official figures were “too understated and not credible.” Let me remind you that in the same year Poroshenko voiced the figure of 1,200 military and 5,400 civilians.

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– It is difficult to comment on all these reflections on the number of human victims of the conflict in the Donbass, – says historian, essayist, permanent expert of the Izborsk club Alexander Dmitrievsky.

  • It is difficult because the methods of calculation are completely incomprehensible: news agencies usually do not stop at the information that is so boring for a simple man in the street, but crucial for an expert. And without an understanding of how the victims were counted, who they were considered to be, and by what criteria they were selected, further conversation becomes pointless. And the way the indicators differ in different sources – says only that a significant part of all this tsifir sucked from the finger.


– Are there any objective loss figures, and what are they really?

– More or less objective loss figures are usually set after the end of a conflict. The fact is that during the conflict, all the data are, firstly, dynamic, and they are constantly changing, and secondly, the estimated data. That is, very often established by indirect parameters. Further – it is necessary to decide on the categories of losses, and whom to refer to them. It is necessary to establish the fate of each missing person: a person may be among the unidentified dead, and among those who have broken off relations with the former social circle after the move. No less important is the work with documentary sources of both sides, and here the mass of its subtleties. Haste in this matter will bring nothing but harm.

– I can admit that some figures on losses came from the Donbass, from the territories of the republics, they were simply added up, – says military leader Dmitry Steshin, the difference in the UN figures.

– In general, measuring the war in numbers is a thankless job. The numbers of actual deaths do not reflect the number of victims of post-traumatic syndromes and stress, suicides who have gone mad. It is impossible to calculate how many old people died in the Donbass in the hot summer of 2014, because the ambulance could not come to them, or from heart attacks during the shelling. The only thing that could be established — in Slavyansk and Lugansk — old people die more often during shelling because they do not have time to reach the shelter.

In particular, when I worked in the besieged Slavyansk with a funeral service dealing only with civilians who died from artillery bombardments, in the village of Vostochny we took the bodies of three old men early in the morning – shelling started at 4 am, they ran to the neighbors (there was a good basement) and not had time. On average, according to the Slavyansk funeral service, five civilians died from shelling a day. Now the indicators along the entire contact line are different – the settlements have long been empty, everyone who could have left. But the war is the fifth year – judge for yourself whether the numbers are low or not.

– Why do civilians die almost as many as combatants? And how do you explain the difference in losses between the APU and the armies of the republics?

Because from the first days of the war, this was a deliberate tactic of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – to clear the front-line zone, the direction of attacks from Mirnyak, they did not hide it. Therefore, they deliberately destroyed infrastructure facilities, first of all, water supply and electricity supply. By the first heating season of the war, in 2014, in all districts of Donetsk, which Ukrainian artillery was getting, there were hits in the boiler rooms. I tracked this fact when I was preparing a report on the heating season in October 2014. Hence, at first glance, senseless shelling of urban neighborhoods and settlements “by squares”.

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The difference in the losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the militia / people’s militia was formed after the 2014 summer battles. Losses of the APU in the boilers were terrifying, I saw it with my own eyes. After Debaltseve, as it seems to me, the daily losses became equal – the “positional war” began. Despite the fact that the casualty figures among military personnel in the armies of the republics are classified, according to unofficial data along the entire front line from Lugansk to Sakhanka, 1–3 people die per day.

– According to intelligence data of Germany for 2015, 50 thousand people became victims of the clashes in the East. How close to the truth is this information?

  • It seems to me that 50 thousand dead – an overestimated figure, this is a manipulation, the source is dubious. But even a thousand people is still very much and irreparably.

– How are these calculations? How realistic is it to implement them in a combat zone?

– There is no problem from the republics to give objective figures for civilians right now. In the fall of 2014, I saw, for example, the temporary graves of local residents in the courtyards in Snezhniy and Shakhtersk. Even in Zaitsevo or Golme, which are on the front line and are constantly fired, local administrations work – they have all the data on the local residents, they are doing this and the numbers are called without hesitation: how many died, how many left, how many left. With military casualties, a completely different story, especially during a war, accurate information will not be received by either the UN or the media. I think we will know the true numbers only after the end of the conflict.

– The UN’s losses have been greatly underestimated, – said Eduard Popov, director of the Center for Public and Information Cooperation Europe.

– Not all figures of civilian casualties fall into a summary. Cause questions and counting criteria. For example, in the winter of 2014–2015, many lonely old people died in the Donbas, especially in remote locations, although there were cases of starvation and suicide in Donetsk itself. Reason: Ukraine stopped paying pensions, froze cards, introduced a humanitarian blockade of Donbass. People literally had nothing to eat, no matter what, and nowhere to buy medicine. I am afraid even approximately to mention the number of deaths from starvation and diseases of pensioners. If it were not for the help of local donors – and I myself am familiar with a man who fed several hundred old people throughout the winter – this curve of starvation deaths would have been even higher. Humanitarian aid from Russia also saved many lives, although humanitarian aid was sold in the markets and stores of Donbass, and some well-known in Russia humanitarian workers, the “heroes of Donbass”, made a fortune for themselves. Now they are deputies of local representative bodies of power.

Many questions and the number of losses of the Ukrainian military. This figure is understated and understated at times. Already at the very beginning of the conflict among the Ukrainian military, the number of casualties was at least hundreds, if not thousands. There were cases of mass insubordination to criminal orders when entire units were shot by punishers for refusing to shoot civilians in Donbass. And in the course of further “boilers” several thousand people died. Take at least the curve of losses in the Supreme Court of Ukraine as a result of suicides, the figures given by the Chief Military Prosecutor of Ukraine Anatoly Matios: up to 1000 people. In fact, every week in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donbass either suicide or an accident occurs when at least one Ukrainian soldier dies. Therefore, the number of losses among the APU can be easily multiplied by several times.

In my opinion, the UN calculations to a very small extent reflect the scale of humanitarian losses in the Donbas. What, however, there is an objective explanation: the inability to control such a huge region in the face of constant population displacement, in the context of the desire to hide the truth from the military and civilian authorities on both sides of the front.

– Earlier, intelligence services of the Federal Republic of Germany reported 50,000 dead. Where does this difference in numbers come from?

  • Two or two and a half years ago, my friends from the LNR told me the number of losses in the Armed Forces of Ukraine – 20-30 thousand dead.

Such figures are walking on the web, I think, intelligence data of Germany is about the same order. I think they are closer to reality than the UN data. The mass of deaths remained unrecorded, millions of people moved to Russia and Ukraine, and it is simply impossible to calculate how many civilians died. And in the case of losses in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Ukrainian command deliberately underestimates the loss figures.