Russia Struggling To Cover Cost Of Funerals For War Dead – OpEd
By Paul Goble
One of the most instructive scenes in the BBC series, Churchill: The Wilderness Years, occurs when a British intelligence officer who is feeding information to the politician about Hitler’s preparations for war. The officer tells Churchill that his agents have discovered that German factories producing cloth have gone into overtime production.
When the opposition figure looks non-plussed in result, the intelligence officer points out that cloth is needed for uniforms and thus this is a key indicator that Hitler plans to radically expand his army in preparation for the launch of war – a classic example of the way something that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with something else in fact does.
Putin’s regime has refused to release updated data on the number of casualties its forces have suffered in Ukraine, and the collation of reports about deaths from the regions is incomplete at best, not only because all regions haven’t reported but also because it appears many of the bodies of Russian dead have not returned to their homes.
(Ukrainian officials have offered to return to the Russian forces what casualties from them the Ukrainian military has, but Moscow has dragged its feet on accepting them. And there have been reports that some bodies have been cremated by the Russian military rather than returned and then counted.)
Now, in a move that unintentionally shows just how massive the number of Russian deaths must be, the FSB, facing more dead it must pay for and rising costs for funerals, has asked the government to increase the funding it supplies for burials and headstones by 17 percent (sibreal.org/a/fsb-poprosila-uvelichit-gosrashody-na-pohorony-rossiyskih-voennyh/31804909.html).
The FSB said it had taken that step because this part of its budget is not indexed and the cost of burials and headstones has shot up. But it is clear that the Russian security service could have absorbed those increased costs if it did not simultaneously have to multiply them by many more deaths as a result of the fighting in Ukraine.
Russian law requires that those employed by siloviki agencies pay for the funerals of those who have died during state service. These payments are the responsibility of the agency for which the casualty had worked. Thus, in addition to the FSB, this provision applies to the defense ministry, the interior ministry and the Russian National Guard.
The amounts of such payments the FSB is asking for varies between Moscow and the rest of the country and according to the rank of those who die. What remains to be seen is whether the Russian government will approve the FSB request and whether what that agency wants will be sufficient to cover Moscow’s debts to the families of those who have lost loved ones.
Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .