Who benefits from manipulating numbers of civilian casualties in Ukraine?
In recent days, I've encountered frequent comparisons of the "statistics" related to civilian casualties in the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, citing figures like 10,000 over a year and a half. This is often contrasted with Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza over a month and a half
It's disheartening to witness the blatant manipulation employed by grown-up people. While I won't make claims about Gaza's statistics due to uncertainty about their accuracy and the percentage of civilian casualties (I'll note that Ukrainian "statistics" only include civilians), I can speak about Ukraine.
The data in question comes from the UN, specifically the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, deployed since 2014. Their comprehensive data on losses during the Russian-Ukrainian war from 2014 to 2022 is considered the most thorough, accurate, and reliable.
The Mission, by default, refrains from trusting data provided by official bodies of any conflicted party, and this skepticism is understandable. Whether it's the Ministry of Health in the de facto occupation administration in Donetsk or Luhansk, or the Ministry of Health in the de facto government of Hamas in Gaza, the Mission takes every claim through verification. Their standard of proof is exceptionally high, demanding documentary evidence for each case and confirmation of the identity of every victim. In a low-intensity armed conflict, where field teams could investigate each incident, document cases, and interview victims or their close relatives, this approach was effective.
Due to the standard of proof, the entire system ceased functioning after February 24 of the previous year. Notably, during the initial weeks, the Mission faced near-paralysis while relocating staff – and thank god it did, while OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission neglected the safety of local employees and left them in Donetsk.
In the altered circumstances, the previous methodology became impractical. The UN Mission attempted to persist with this approach, disregarding its absurdity and inadequacy.
Despite significant efforts, numerous cases post-de-occupation in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and later Kherson and Kharkiv regions were documented. Instances of shelling in populated areas away from the front line were recorded. However, the statistics fail to account for the victims of the Mariupol capture and various other unaccounted-for incidents. Much more is not taken into account, but to understand that the "statistics" do not reflect anything, it is enough to realize that Mariupol is not taken into account at all.
The Mission acknowledged the insufficiency of the data but continued to publish it, albeit with disclaimers of incompleteness – this is still misleading. These disclaimers only appear as footnotes in the report, while the statistics circulate in the information space, devoid of these hypocritical warnings. Unfortunately, the Mission persists in what amounts to information manipulation. This is regrettable.
About the author. Vyacheslav Likhachev, researcher of far-right movements, human rights defender
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