A little boy is blown up by a mine on the beach. A young mother shot herself in the forehead. A retired teacher was killed in his home. Soldiers who kill and die hundreds of people every day. Old and young and everyone in between.
A war can be measured by many criteria. Win or lose territory. Geopolitical influence increased or decreased. Treasure gained or resources depleted. But for the people who suffer under the shelling, who hear the sound of missiles coming in, the sound of gunfire in the streets and the cries of losing through broken windows, the number of casualties is the most telling narrative of a war.
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In Ukraine, no one is quite sure exactly what the casualties are, except that many people have been killed.
Richard H. “People are being killed indiscriminately or suddenly or without rhyme or reason,” said Cohen, a retired professor of history and peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He said incessant artillery fire “kills and maimed people.”
“It puts a lot of psychological stress on the population, as it does on the combatants,” Mr Cohen said, “and it goes on for a very long time.”
In its latest updates, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights He said 4509 civilians had been killed in the clashes. But it is clear that thousands more have been killed. Ukrainian police chief Ihor Klimenko said last week that prosecutors had opened a criminal case for “the deaths of more than 12,000 people, especially those found in mass graves.”
And in Mariupol, a Black Sea city devastated by Russian bombing, Ukrainian authorities in exile say examinations of mass graves using satellite imagery, witness testimony and other evidence have led them to believe that at least 22,000 people have been killed. – and probably thousands. More.
The death toll includes thousands believed to have been killed in areas controlled by Russian forces. Mr Klimenko said that even where Ukraine had regained control, it was too early to count the dead in mass graves, as more were being found each week.
Professor Cohen said international and Ukrainian officials have little access to the cities involved for accurate counting, and that urban targets, continuous artillery fire and the static nature of the battle in the disputed south and east only add to the death and panic. He said that regardless of when and how the war ended, trauma, loss, displacement and fear all become “part of a country’s culture”.
Russians eager to maintain an aura of merit are less likely to report casualties on the battlefield. The Ukrainians, frustrated by the demolition of the bullets, are doing the same. Civilian casualties are an unknown variable that is multiplied by horrific factors such as the collapse of buildings and the unreported casualties of occupied cities.
Children are not protected from rape. The United Nations Agency for the Protection of Children’s Emergency Situations estimates that at least three children have died every day since the start of the war in February. This is just an estimate.
Mariupol – a port city that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, relentless shelling by Russia and the brutality of war – still bury the bodies in what a local official calls an “endless caravan of death.”
“There are a lot of mass graves in our city, there are a lot of spontaneous graves, and some bodies are still on the streets,” Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko said last Monday.
The casualties have raised fears of 20 percent damage to Russia, which is now under Russian occupation. Some places, such as Sievierodonetsk, have been largely destroyed by the advance of Russian forces.
Early in the war, when Russia tried and failed to capture the capital, Kyiv, its forces increased the death toll with shocking brutality. In Bucha, they shot civilians in their cars, homes and gardens, dumped their bodies in the streets, and even burned them and dumped them in the parking lot. And as the Russian armored columns retreated, they inflicted more casualties.
According to Mr. Klimenko, at least 1,500 civilians were killed in the Kyiv region alone. They included two sisters in Bucha – one a retired teacher and the other a disabled one.
“Why are you killing Grandma?” Sorahi, the sisters’ neighbor, asked.
The Ukrainian army has suffered heavy losses. The government estimates that 200 soldiers die every day. Funeral services for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions are being held in cities and towns across the country, even those far from the front lines.
The dead are often buried quickly and in shallow graves.
“I feel numb,” said Anthony, a refrigeration worker in Lviv, western Ukraine. “Even when someone tells me a joke that I know is funny, I can not laugh.”
Many Russians ordered by President Vladimir V. Putin did not return home to invade Ukraine under the false pretext of liberating the country from the Nazis. In April, Western nations estimated that Russia had lost about 15,000 troops in Ukraine. On Friday, Ukraine was estimated at 33 thousand.
The exact number is unknown and will not come from Moscow: its latest announcement on March 25 stated that a total of 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed.
In the months following the invasion, local news websites across Russia compiled “memorial pages” listing the names of soldiers killed in their hometown. Then, this month, they removed them: a court ruled that the lists were state secrets.