Russian losses are estimated at around 10,000 troops

Irpin, Ukraine, March 11, 2022 In front of the Ukrainian position in the far west of the city, where tanks and armored personnel carriers were destroyed during the attempted entry of Russian forces, two bodies of Russian soldiers lie in the rubble.  Photo Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde

The voice is choppy. Reached by telephone in the region of Khantys-Mansis, in central Russia, Olga – the first name has been changed for security reasons – is surprised that her story “interests the French” but don’t shy away. His son, Nikolai, 22, was killed on February 27, just three days after the outbreak of war on February 24 by Vladimir Putin. “I learned about it on March 10 and his body was returned to us on March 15. »

If the word “war”, forbidden by Russian legislation, escapes her, Olga pulls herself together. “Why did he participate in the g…, the special operation? I will probably never know. But if I had known there was a special operation, I would have done everything to prevent him from going there. I don’t even understand how he was sent there. This is nonsense, you understand? »

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When the terrible news reached her, this mother asked questions: How? Where ? “The major replied ‘what’s the use of knowing? ”” Since then, Olga, who lives with her daughter in a locality in the Urals, on the banks of the Ob, has not ceased to return in her mind to the last months, the last weeks, the last day she was in contact with his son. “It was the 20 [février], he told me: “It’s ok, I’m in Belarus for exercises, on the 27th I’ll be back home.” » Then nothing. Nothing but questions, again and again. “After his military service, he signed a contract [avec l’armée] but he told me nothing, not even his difficulties. I learned much later that he had little or nothing to eat or where to sleep. Any man has to go through the army, but why did he sign? When I asked him, he replied: “Because I have to.” He had just gotten married. »

” I do not understand what is happening “, repeats Olga, who says she has always kept away from politics. This bruised woman wonders today what has become of her son’s friend, Yvan, who was with him, before concluding with this image: “If we had known we were going to fall so low, we would have put hay on the ground. »

Everywhere, the lists of soldiers killed are getting longer

The name and photo of Nikolaï, shaved head and youthful face, member of 104and regiment of the 76and airborne division, figures well, with others, “killed in the Kharkiv region” – the second largest city in Ukraine located very close to the Russian border – on the region’s Internet portal. It is necessary to peel the sites of the Russian cities and the local press, as does the American doctoral student Rob Lee, to realize the extent of the disaster. Every day, dozens of ads are displayed, without noise.

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