The St. Petersburg Times:
Russia 'Lying Like Mad'
Say Soldiers' Mothers
By Natalya Shulyakovskaya
The St. Petersberg Times - Staff Writer

MOSCOW - With the Russian military encountering tougher resistance as it closes in on the Chechen capital, Grozny, it is becoming murkier just how many Russian soldiers have been killed.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says a prime concern in not hurrying to storm Grozny is the desire to minimize casualties.
It's difficult to say how well he's doing, since military authorities are not rushing to provide complete and updated figures.
The Defense Ministry reports 404 servicemen killed between Aug. 2, when Russia attacked Islamic militants who had invaded Dagestan from Chechnya, and Dec. 16, the latest date for which figures are available, spokesman Igor Kostyshin said.
The ministry also reported 1,033 men wounded between Aug. 2 and Dec. 9.
However, soldiers in Chechnya come not only from Defense Ministry units, but also from the Interior Ministry's troops.
The Interior Ministry reported 44 killed and 116 wounded between Oct. 1 and Dec. 22, spokeswoman Galina Gordeyeva said. The ministry did not provide figures for the period between Aug. 2. and Oct. 1.
The official numbers seemed to be supported by the main forensic laboratory that certifies the deaths of servicemen - but it is unlikely to process every single casualty.
Alexander Tikhonov, deputy head of the Rostov forensic lab, which is handling most of the bodies of servicemen killed in Chechnya, said that so far his lab has received about 340 bodies of troops serving with the Defense Ministry.
"And so far, we've only had no more than 10 or 12 bodies of Interior Ministry servicemen," Tikhonov said.
But the Union of Soldiers' Mothers' Committees, a grass-roots parents network that looks for soldiers who have been captured or killed, says the military's figures are too low.
The truth, said Valentina Melnikova, a spokeswoman for the group, is that the official figures should be multiplied by three.
"Our estimate of 1,000 already dead and 3,000 wounded is a bare minimum," said Melnikova, whose organization has frequent contact with the parents of killed or missing soldiers.
"They are lying like mad."


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