Ukraine Fog of War Produces Wild Casualty Claims

Military Claims to Have Killed 1,000 Rebel Fighters

Getting reliable information out of warzones is always challenging, but the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine seems to be exceptionally muddied by far-fetched claims from both sides of massive victories and large, unconfirmed casualty figures.

Since yesterday’s attack on a Ukrainian military base by rebels using a BM-21 Grad rocket launcher, the Ukrainian military claims to have bombarded two sites near Donetsk, and citing pilots involved claims to have killed about 1,000 rebel fighters, 500 in each case.

The Ukrainian military has a history of making unsubstantiated claims of large rebel casualties, but no single exchange in the war has ever killed more than a few dozen people, so an actual killing of 1,000 rebels in a single day would be enormous, if it was actually true.

The rebels are making some disputed claims today as well, claiming to have shot down a Su-25 warplane outside of Horlivka. The rebels have downed one military transport plane a some helicopters, but never a fighter plane. Ukraine denied that this happened.

One thing that definitely happened was a military attack on Marinka, with at least five civilians killed and four wounded. The exact toll is still a matter of dispute, with rebels reporting as many as 30 killed in the strike, which they said hit an orphanage.

With Ukraine targeting Russian journalists on the ground and largely not letting anyone else in to the nation’s southeast, what is exactly going on in Donetsk remains unclear.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.