True costs of Russian-Ukrainian war in spotlight as human rights defender seeks answers

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As Russia claims victory in the now-destroyed Ukrainian city of Mariupol and continues to repeat its mantra that the “special military operation” is on track, a prominent Russian human rights defender began to look for the costs of this war, in human lives.

Marina Litvinovich told Fox News that the process was laborious: “There is no official database anywhere. I have to collect information from regional and city government websites, governors’ chat rooms, step by step.”

She added: “The government is doing everything possible to hide the dead.”

Officially, the latest death toll in Russia was 1,351 at the end of last month. Western countries and Ukraine put it at 15,000. Litvinovich guessed there could be about 5,000. She herself identified what she considered a certainty just over 1 800.

A resident looks near a building destroyed during the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol.
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A resident looks near a building destroyed during the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol.
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

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What she finds is that there are large numbers of 18 and 19-year-olds among the dead, she said, even though the government has insisted it is not sending no conscripts in combat. Litvinovich also said she found “a lot of dead senior officers, majors, colonels.”

Plus, she said there’s a lot of talk about how these soldiers died — often like sitting ducks. She said it didn’t feel like a war, but a mousetrap: “It was written that they died as heroes, but the horrible thing is that many of them were just sitting in tanks when they were bombed. These are commanders’ mistakes for which people pay the price. the price.”

According to Litvinovich, the largest groups of dead she has identified are young men from Dagestan or largely Muslim Buryats, indigenous peoples of eastern Siberia. Both regions have high birth rates and few economic opportunities.

“It turns out,” she said, “that Russia is waging this war through the death of non-Russians.” But the war for the men in the distant lands has paid off well, and that’s probably why they’re going there at this point, those who go there voluntarily, she said,

Litvinovich said she believes that for families with eight children, where few jobs are available, the value of life declines, as does risk aversion. She claimed the monthly salary of many of these soldiers was around $1,800, which she calculated would be nine times the average civilian salary in those key feeder regions of Dagestan and Buryatia. Families of fallen soldiers received 7 million rubles – at the current rate, about $85,000.

“Human life has no value. It’s a scary story,” Litvinovich said. “This is what Mother Russia should be cured of.”

A view of the Mariupol theater damaged during the fighting in Mariupol, in the territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, on April 4.

A view of the Mariupol theater damaged during the fighting in Mariupol, in the territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, on April 4.
(AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File)

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In March, the Levada Center, Russia’s only independent polling institute, found that 80% of Russians supported the war. Some questioned whether those polls were accurate, but Levada said she was confident they were thoughtful.

Fox News asked Litvinovich if she thinks the rising death toll among soldiers has changed that trend.

“It’s hard for me to say. Sociologists show that the opposite is true, that even more people are now in favor of war. It’s very hard to believe, but that’s what their numbers show. The coffins have started to arrive, and people on the contrary are rallying. They say, well, now we have to finish this fascist scum,” she said. “The goods are more expensive in the shops, but it doesn’t change people’s attitude towards war.”

She added that society was under so much pressure that “people have drawn their picture of the world and don’t want to move away from it”. Litvinovich said many people acted in such a way that it almost looked like they were part of a cult.

Litvinovich took part in a television program which was a long debate on whether the Russians against the war should stay in the country or leave. Hundreds of thousands of people have escaped since late February. Many were journalists who simply could no longer do their job without running the risk of landing in prison for up to 15 years. Litvinovich pleaded for the Russians to stay put if possible, if they don’t face the threat of imminent imprisonment.

Marianna Vishegirskaya outside a shell-damaged maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9.

Marianna Vishegirskaya outside a shell-damaged maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9.
(AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov, File)

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Litivinovich, who has spent endless hours in recent years tracking the needs and status of Russian prisoners, had her moment when she thought she would leave too, but decided to stay. Just as the old Soviet posters used to sing that “the fatherland needs you” and your hard work, Litvinovich thought that “the Putin project for Russia” was on the verge of collapse and that he it would take critically minded Russians to put the country back together. whole. How soon she thought that time would come, she didn’t say, but she was sure it would only be a matter of time – and that this war would be the final nail in this Kremlin’s coffin.

“The state he built is not working,” she insisted. “I see my task as that of a doctor who has to treat a very sick and unhappy country. And to treat it, you have to stay here.”

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