Yelena Shesternina is not the first Russian journalist to do it, but she has performed a valuable service by bringing the figures up to date. The correspondent for Russky Kurier reported in that newspaper’s June 3 issue on a simple exercise in arithmetic: adding up the cumulative total of rebel guerrillas which the federal forces claim to have killed in the various statements of their press spokesmen, and comparing that total with the number of guerrillas who, according to those same federal military sources, are still fighting. It turns out that if the numbers of those ostensibly killed were accurate, there would not be a single rebel fighter left.
The federals claimed that the total number of rebel fighters at the start of the second Chechen war in 1999 was in the range of 12,000 to 15,000. From the beginning of that war to the end of 2002, the federal forces claim to have killed 14,316 guerrillas. They nevertheless continued to put the number of surviving fighters at 1,500 to 2,000. But then another 2,000 fighters were allegedly wiped out in 2003.
“Gentlemen,” asked Shesternina, “where do they come from if we are constantly destroying them?”