Vadim and the fallen children: the silent mourning of families in Russia

from Michele Farina

Few official figures and many funerals. With the last farewell paid by the state, the secret services are asking for more budget: there is not enough money for all the bodies

More money for the funerals, the tombstones, the medals, the flags on the coffins: the secret services have asked the Kremlin to increase the death toll. 17% more is needed to bury the fallen, according to a document cited by the agency Reuters a few days ago. The Federal Security Service (FSB), the heir to the KGB, has asked that the figure for each body be raised to a maximum of 74,200 rubles, 860 euros, for the highest-ranking officers.

Accounting and state secrets

This precise funeral accounting is contrasted by the secret on the exact number of those killed. The official toll has been at a standstill for weeks: just under 1,400 dead, according to the Ministry of Defense. A report by the independent site «Mediazona» documents 1,744 soldiers and 317 officers killed. The Ukrainian government speaks of 20,000, for NATO it could be 15,000 (as many as the USSR lost in ten years of conflict in Afghanistan). President Zelensky at the beginning of the war said that the invaders traveled in mobile incinerators to make the fallen disappear, “to not let Russian women know that their children had been sent to die in Ukraine”. Kiev claims to have accumulated in cold storage thousands of bodies of Russian soldiers left in the field by retreating comrades.

Two mothers

Gulnara Valiyeva, 43, buried her son Yevgeny, who was killed in combat alongside his Belgian shepherd in Hostomel, outside Kiev. On social networks, the Russian mother tells the army to go “all the way”, and for herself she only asks for the puppy her son was training. Another story, another anger accompanies Tatyana Kolodiy: her 19-year-old sniper Vadim is burned alive in an armored car. She also wrote on social media: «I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. Around I see all these forty-year-olds joking and drinking beer, while there the kids are dying ».

The roses of the authorities

Tatyana does not speak of “heroes”. She is not a “good Russian citizen”: the authorities pay the funeral, but ask her family to have a low and obsequious profile. Journalists are kept away from cemeteries. And then it is in the local media, on social networks such as Vkontakte, where the news is filtered or the tributes to the “new heroes” are flooded. We no longer pretend, as in the beginning, that the Army was a walk in the park. Too many days have passed, too many dead. And so the strategy has changed a bit. The fallen are there. And they must be celebrated. Sometimes the big shots of the local authorities come by and put roses on the coffin of those who “sacrificed themselves for their country”.

From the outskirts of the Empire

At funerals, mothers hold photos of twenty-year-old soldiers, and even the first ten Russians that the Ukrainian authorities have identified among Bucha’s torturers have beardless faces. Rather than from Moscow, Putin’s “heroes” came from the poorest areas of greater Russia. Dagestan, Kalmykia or Buryatia, where the average salary is 44 thousand rubles (less than 500 euros). The uniform as a source of sustenance for the whole family, or to nourish the dream of a house all to oneself: Bulat Odoev was killed outside Kiev, seven thousand kilometers from his homein the Buryatia of the Buddhist shamans. “Our boys are dying,” dared to tell the sister-in-law Guardian: “This bloodbath must stop.”

April 30, 2022 (change April 30, 2022 | 23:35)

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Vadim and the fallen children: the silent mourning of families in Russia

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