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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

First List Of Army War Dead Released

For the first time since the war in Chechnya erupted two years ago, the Defense Ministry has published an official list of regular army soldiers who have died in the conflict, at last giving worried parents something solid to check -- and to challenge if their missing sons are not mentioned.


The 2,941 names stand in alphabetical ranks and cover five black-rimmed broadsheet newspaper pages in Saturday's edition of the Defense Ministry's newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda.


They make a dramatic black-and-white testament to the costs of war that recalls nothing so much as the memorial to the United States' Vietnam war dead in Washington.


Publication of the list was warmly welcomed as a milestone by human rights organizations, although they said it was still far from complete.


Krasnaya Zvezda's list does not include troops killed who were serving with the Interior Ministry forces or with the Border Guards, both of which have played prominent roles in the fighting. Nor was it clear whether the list included soldiers fighting under contract.


Apart from these question marks, activists also said they suspected the list was inaccurate.


"We are in the process of checking this official list against the data banks at all of our regional centers," said Lyubov Olenicheva of the Mothers' Rights Fund, associated with the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, which has led the effort to compile a Fund estimates total losses by the federal forces in Chechnya at 10,000 men.


Olenicheva was very positive, however, about the list's publication and said it would help soldiers' parents, many of whom still do not know the fate of their sons.


"Even for those who have been informed of their sons' deaths, the list could help them to accept it. In our country, people still have a strong belief in the written word," she said.


In an article entitled "We Remember Them All By Name," Krasnaya Zvezda sought to honor the dead, while acknowledging implicitly that the war in Chechnya is not popular.


"If a soldier or officer could choose his fate and the war in which he was destined to die, he would, of course, choose what is called a holy war, a war in which the people fight as one against a foreign invader," the army's newspaper commented. "But a soldier does not choose his war. He fulfills his soldierly duty and his commanding officer's order."


Analysts viewed the publication as an important expression of the government's commitment to achieve a peaceful solution to the war.


"This list symbolizes the positive processes that are underway," said Sergei Oznobishchev, director of the Institute of Strategic Assessments. "The decision to reach a peaceful solution has been made."


Oznobishchev also linked publication of casualty figures 22 months after the war began to the appointment of new leaders in the Defense Ministry, especially the Minister Igor Rodionov, who were not directly connected to the discredited war effort.


Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed said earlier this month that total Russian casualties in Chechnya came to 3,826, with nearly 2,000 listed as missing in action. Lebed has said a total of 80,000 to 100,000 people, most of them civilians, have perished in the conflict, although his figures have been ridiculed by other officials.


Lebed's figure for the number of dead servicemen is not necessarily in conflict with Krasnaya Zvezda's. The list, as its editors pointed out, was current only to Oct. 4, and did not contain casualties among the Interior Ministry or Border Guard troops.


Nikolai Starodymov, an editor at Krasnaya Zvezda, said it was "highly likely" that the list contained inaccuracies. "I think the list will be appended, for various reasons," he said.