May 16, 2022

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A Russian news website blamed the hack for reporting the deaths of nearly 10,000 military personnel in Ukraine

A Russian news website blamed the hack for reporting the deaths of nearly 10,000 military personnel in Ukraine

LONDON (Reuters) – A Russian newspaper accused hackers of spreading false news on its website, after a report surfaced there for more than six hours saying nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in Ukraine.

An article on the website of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, which was captured by an archive tool on the Internet, quotes the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that 9,861 Russian soldiers have been killed and 16,153 wounded in what Moscow calls its own military operation in Ukraine.

Those numbers have been removed from a version of the same article that appeared on the site on Tuesday.

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Instead, one of the consultants said: “On March 21, access to the administrator’s interface on the Komsomolskaya Pravda website was hacked and a fake entry was made in this publication about the situation about the special operation in Ukraine. Inaccurate information was immediately removed.”

If the numbers are correct, the Russian death toll from the 27-day war in Ukraine would equate to about two-thirds of the estimated 15,000 soldiers who died during the 10 years of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979.

Russia has not officially updated casualty figures since it announced on March 2 that 498 soldiers were killed and 1,597 wounded. Since then, its offensive has met with more stiff resistance from the Ukrainian army and volunteer defense forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday that he had no information on the number of casualties. He declined to comment on the site’s incident, saying it was a question for the newspaper.

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In the same call, Alexander Gamov, the newspaper’s correspondent in the Kremlin, said that its website had been hacked and fake information appeared there for several minutes.

A search using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (archive.org) shows the numbers were visible on the Komsomolskaya Pravda website for six hours and 35 minutes between 1213 GMT and 1848 GMT on Monday.

Records show that the article was not accessible after that for a brief period before it reappears at 1939 GMT without casualty numbers.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolak wrote on Telegram, referring to the alleged number of 9,861 Russian deaths: “This is only the beginning of the investigation of their national catastrophe. Because in the real world there are almost twice as many Russian dead.”

None of the alleged victims’ claims could be independently verified.

Komsomsolskaya Pravda is among the Russian media that have faithfully followed President Vladimir Putin’s position that Moscow is pursuing a special operation in Ukraine to disarm and “disarm” the country – an argument that Ukraine and the West rejected as a false excuse to invade a democratic state.

This incident is the second time that the media loyal to the Kremlin’s line in the war has struggled to stay informed.

Last week, a Channel One state television news editor appeared live in the studio for several seconds, chanting anti-war slogans and raising a “No War” poster during an evening news show. The woman’s court, Marina Ovsianikova, was fined 30,000 rubles ($280), after the Kremlin denounced her protest as a “riot”.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan) Editing by Mark Heinrich and Rosalba O’Brien

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.