Russia refuses to take back its dead soldiers to 'hide true scale of war', Ukraine says

8 March 2022, 14:17 | Updated: 8 March 2022, 14:19

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, said Russia is refusing to take home its fallen soldiers to be buried humanely. While Ukrainian soldiers (pictured) are being given traditional burial services.
Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, said Russia is refusing to take home its fallen soldiers to be buried humanely. While Ukrainian soldiers (pictured) are being given traditional burial services. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Sophie Barnett

Russia is refusing to take back its dead soldiers to "prevent mothers, wives and daughters from learning the true scale of the war waged by Vladimir Putin", Ukraine has claimed.

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Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister for Reintegration of Temporary Occupied Territories, said the Russians are "refusing to negotiate" on the issue.

She said Vladimir Putin is hiding the scale of the war from Russian families, who many claim were "deceived" by authorities into sending their sons to fight.

"Obviously, believing that the bodies of servicemen of the Russian Federation are not worthy to return to their homeland and be buried humanely," Ms Vereshchuk said during an all-Ukrainian telethon.

"At the same time, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has developed and approved a step-by-step procedure for their transfer.

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"They leave their dead here in Ukraine without the right to be buried in the Russian Federation for one purpose: to prevent Russian mothers, wives and daughters from learning about the true scale of the war waged by Vladimir Putin, the thousands and thousands killed and the collapse that Russia is waiting if this war continues for some time to come," Ms Vereshchuk continued.

"Such atrocities against even our people, of course, shock us. But they do not stop our army. We are on our land."

The Russians are reportedly using mobile crematoriums to "incinerate dead soldiers" amid fears Putin is trying to hide the scale of his war.

Ukrainian authorities claim that more than 11,000 Russian troops have been killed since the Kremlin's invasion, but this figure has not been independently verified.

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When asked if he recognised the figure, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC he could not "verify" the number, but said it was true the Russian army was the group to suffer the biggest losses.

He said this is down to the "poor leadership, poor plan, poor equipment and the arrogance of the Russian leadership in sending them to invade a sovereign country".

With the invasion well into its second week, Russian troops have made significant advances in southern Ukraine, but stalled in some other regions.

Soldiers and volunteers fortified the capital, Kyiv, with hundreds of checkpoints and barricades designed to thwart a takeover.

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Shells and rockets have continued to fall on other population centres, including the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where the mayor reported heavy artillery fire.

"We can't even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn't stop day or night," mayor Anatol Fedoruk said.

"Dogs are pulling apart the bodies on the city streets. It's a nightmare."

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed not to back down, sending a defiant message to Russia and dispelling rumours he fled Kyiv.

He declared he is "not afraid" of Putin and will remain in the capital "until Ukraine wins the war".

The UN has recorded 406 deaths and 801 injuries among Ukraine’s civilian population since Russia's invasion began.