The instagram account of a Russian soldier who has recently returned to base from fighting in the Ukraine reveals the rough number of casualties in 76th Airbourne regiment from Pskov and proves Russian activity on Ukrainian territory.There has recently been confirmation that members of the 76th Airbourne (VDV) regiment from Pskov were killed in the Ukraine, and a further number of troops have been captured by the Ukrainian forces. Vladimir Putin has claimed that his forces were not fighting in the Ukraine “I haven’t yet received a report from the Ministry of Defense. As far as I know, they were patrolling the border and may have ended up in Ukrainian territory”. Looking at the social media accounts of paratroopers from Pskov who have survived the fighting, I have been able to find more details about the casualties and the involvement of the regiment in the war. Egor Lesnikov, a contract soldier who has just returned from the Ukraine suggests the number of casualties has been much higher than initially thought; “I’m not arguing about duty… But 40 200s [Russian military term for dead bodies] from one regiment – its too much, don’t you think?”
He also says that conscripts as well as fully trained fighters are being sent to the Ukraine, “Our conscripts are going too, I went for two weeks, just flown back”. He sums up the situation; “its best not to rush there… its shit”. Yet, more troops have already been sent in to fight; “we were replaced by the 2nd BTGR”.
Lesnikov’s posts contradict the claims of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which continues to insist that Russian troops have not taken part in any military action, and which keeps denying the casualties among Russian servicemen killed in the war. His past also challenges the narrative of the Russian media, which continues to frame the war as a battle of Russian speakers against “fascism”.
For example, Lesnikov’s display picture on instagram is of the skull and crossbones symbol of the Waffen-SS, he also posted numerous drawings of white power symbols and slogans and even uploaded a picture of himself performing the Nazi salute to an image of Putin on television.At least one other VDV soldier from the same regiment has an affiliation with Russia’s neonazi movement. The Russian authorities, keen to focus on Ukranian nationalists and organisations like the Pravy Sektor appear to be ignoring the nationalists among their own armed forces. Yesterday, journalists from independent Russian media outlet Dozhd were attacked as their car pulled into a Pskov cemetary. The journalists wanted to check the names on the graves against a list of names that was published in Ukrainian media a few days ago. A man wearing a hooded top and shorts jumped on their car as another attacked their windows with a corkscrew and slashed their tires.
The attack bore a resemblance to what happened to a group of a peaceful protesters a few weeks back. The protesters were part of a movement to demonstrate against vastly expensive mansions that are being built for ministers from Putin’ United Russia party, in gated villages on the outskirts of Moscow. Back then, hooded men who appeared to be working with the police assaulted protesters, smashed their cameras, broke the windows of their cars and placed strips of spikes behind their tires.
Today, Dozhd have reported that the names have been removed from the graves of the killed Servicemen in Pskov. It is clear that Putin’s government will continue to deny the growing evidence of Russia’s military involvement in the Ukraine, and may enforce strong measures to stop the population from finding out the truth about what happened.