Ищи Своих / Look for Your Own
The Ukrainian Telegram channel Ищи Своих began publishing difficult-to-watch images and information regarding dead Russian soldiers, as part of the effort to influence Russian troops not to participate in violent acts against Ukraine. Anushik draws after the channel's photographs, raising questions about anonymity and concealment and about the perception of war between Russia and Ukraine.
A few days ago, the hacker movement Anonymous leaked files with data of the Russian soldiers sent to fight in Ukraine, starting an international conversation about the first non-anonymous war in history and the lack of anonymity that may affect the consent or refusal of soldiers to take part in acts of occupation and killing.
Eliminating anonymity also comes up in the context of the dead or captured soldiers. At the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian interior ministry opened a website publishing information and documentation about fallen and captured Russian soldiers. The site was blocked by order of the chief prosecutor's office in the Russian Federation already on February 27, 2022, a week after the outbreak of war. Thus was born a semi-official Ukrainian Telegram channel for posting photos of dead Russian soldiers, along with documents and personal items, for the use of their families in Russia. The channel is called Ищи Своих (Look for Your Own).
Uncensored, hard-to-watch images of dead soldiers' bodies are intended to expose the true scale of the losses on the Russian side – information the Russian authorities are hiding from the public. The Russian families receive an official notice that the soldier is "missing." The systematic cover-up and the abandonment of the bodies and those captured in Ukraine are meant to suppress potential civil protests and criticism of the war among Russian citizens. Official casualties are labeled "Cargo 200" in the military system, and so they are counted and sorted, accumulating in society's consciousness. When the fallen go unacknowledged, and families receive no notification when a member has fallen in battle or been captured – the war remains anonymous, and the price paid by Russian society is unknown.
I started drawing dead Russian soldiers from images that I found on the channel, out of a confusing identification with the occupier, despite being born and raised in Kyiv. When I look at a picture of an unidentified Russian soldier's body, I see a man sent to conquer, fight, and die in a foreign land, in a morally unjustified war. Unlike images of the war's victims, there is no demand for those of the occupier's casualties. The Ukrainian side has no interest in evoking empathy and mercy for the Russian side. The Russians do not wish to expose the cost of the war to Russian society.
When the anonymous files with the details of all the soldiers sent to Ukraine were published, I downloaded them and tried to cross the data with data from the channel (those who were identified). I found no matches. I racked my brain to find the fake, and though I do not have a definite answer, I see several possibilities:
- The Anonymous files are fake and are not a full list of the soldiers sent to Ukraine;
- The data of dead and captured soldiers on the channel is fake;
- The leaked list is incomplete.
This disturbing discovery, seen in the light of a global war of fakes, enhances further the significance of the channel and the recent series. In 21st-century wars, there is a constant manipulation of facts and interpretations, but one thing is still certain: death. To see death is to see the truth.