I have a piece in the current issue of Vice Magazine that looks into the deaths of Russian soldiers believed to have been killed in eastern Ukraine, where the grinding conflict has claimed more than 5,000 lives. While the Kremlin denies sending troops into battle, among the dead are dozens — possibly hundreds — of active-duty Russian servicemen. Since the summer, a small but steady stream of coffins began arriving in villages across Russia, containing maimed bodies of soldiers killed in “unknown circumstances.” Some would be buried in secret funerals or hastily at night, their graves zealously guarded from prying outsiders. As the conflict rages on, the families of Russia’s dead, wounded and missing soldiers are still waiting for answers:
The family had spent five days waiting for the body to arrive, during which time Andrianov's brother called anyone he could reach in the 106th Division in a maddening attempt to find out how his brother had died. At one point, an exasperated officer told him to give up. "Quit calling," the officer said. "They'll give you a hundred thousand rubles [a little over fifteen hundred dollars]—more than enough to drink and remember him. What more do you want?" The paperwork accompanying Andrianov's body offered no clues as to how or where he'd been killed. According to a military forensics report, at 9 PM on August 28, Andrianov was carrying out a "special mission" in a "place of temporary dislocation." There was "an explosion, from which Corporal Andrianov received a traumatic injury not compatible with life, as a result of which he died on the spot."
"They make it sound like a government secret, but honestly, I want to say that it is a government crime," Natasha said. "How did he die? Where did he die? My son is gone, and no one can explain to me how it happened."
You can read the full article and see my original photographs in the February issue of Vice Magazine, or on the web by clicking here: http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/russias-ghost-army-0000568-v22n2