The corpses of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine are being moved to Belarus by train and planes in the dead of night to avoid attracting attention, it has been reported.
Footage obtained by Radio Free Europe (RFE) appears to show military ambulances driving through the Belarusian city of Homel in early March.
They are said to be filled with wounded and dead Russian soldiers, according to residents and medics in the border regions.
RFE quoted one medical official who said more than 2,500 soldiers’ corpses had been shipped from Homel back to Russia by trains or by plane as of March 13.
The figure could not be independently verified.
But the Homel region may offer some clues about the death count.
Homel, Belarus’ second largest city after Minsk, borders Russia to the east and Ukraine to the south.
The country’s dictator Alexander Lukashenko supports Putin’s war and allowed a deployment of major Russian military units in the country as a springboard to get into Ukraine.
Residents in Homel told RFE that wounded Russian soldiers were being brought to three separate medical facilities in the city and local patients were being discharged early to manage the influx.
‘There are so many wounded Russians there – it’s just a horror. Terribly disfigured. It is impossible to listen to their moans throughout the whole hospital,’ said one resident who was treated in the Homel hospital.
Another Homel doctor said there was growing concern among city residents that there could be shortage of everyday medications for the general population.
There are other unverified reports of morgues and hospitals filling up with maimed or dead Russian soldiers in border areas.
Locals in Mazyr, a Belerusian city about 100 kilometres northwest of Ukraine’s Chernobyl, have described morgues ‘overflowing’ with Putin’s troops.
One eyewitness told RFE: ‘Passengers at the Mazyr train station were shocked by the number of corpses being loaded on the train. After people started shooting video, the military caught them and ordered them to remove it.’
It comes after a human rights worker in Mazyr described surging hospital admissions of maimed Russian soldiers.
‘There are a lot of deaths. Limbs are being cut off and there are a lot of shrapnel wounds,’ they told The Telegraph last week. ‘All these are mostly very young guys born in 1998-2002.’
In the border town Naroulya, residents claim that a Russian field hospital has been set up in a former motor depot, and wounded Russian soldiers are being flown in from Ukraine and treated briefly before being moved to Homel then back to Russia.
Reliable casualty counts have been hard to come by due to Russia’s crackdown on independent reporting. Experts say each side seeks to exaggerate the losses of the enemy and minimize its own.
Moscow’s Defence Ministry says that less than 500 soldiers have been killed.
However, a US intelligence assessment said its latest ‘conservative estimate’ is 7,000.
The update from the Pentagon said almost a fifth of Russia’s military had been wiped out in the disastrous invasion – with 30,000 soldiers thought to have either been killed or wounded in just three weeks of fighting.
Ukraine’s military has also suffered heavy losses, likely to be much higher than the 1,300 troops which Kyiv has confirmed have been killed.
Russia-Ukraine war: Everything you need to know
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the country has suffered widespread damages and loss of life amid a major bombing campaign.
Over three million people have fled, as Ukrainian cities face shortages of food, water, heat, and medicine – with thousands of British people opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees.
And Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t shown any signs of calling off the attack anytime soon, despite reports that one-fifth of Russia’s army has been wiped out.
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