How Russia Depicts Wounded Soldiers: As Heroes, or Not at All

A shell slammed into the ground just feet from where the Russian soldier was deployed, and the explosion tossed him into the air.

“I felt my arm fall off, then a blow to my leg, everything slowed down, just a frozen picture in my eyes — no sounds, no other sensations,” said the soldier, Andrei, a 29-year-old former convict recruited into the Wagner private military company.

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Drifting in and out of consciousness, he was convinced that death loomed, he said in an interview, requesting that only his first name be used because of a fear of retribution by the Russian authorities. As shells exploded on all sides in the fighting near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, fellow soldiers dragged him to an evacuation point. He eventually spent more than a year in hospitals, with the remnants of his left arm amputated and one leg still at risk.

Cases like Andrei’s do not receive much publicity in Russia, where — as in Ukraine — the total number of war wounded is not disclosed. But, according to American and Ukrainian officials and numerous military analysts, the number is staggering, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands. And one senior Russian official estimated that amputees represented more than half of the seriously wounded.

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