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Geopolitics

An Old, Ugly Russian Habit: Hiding Its War Dead

Dating back to Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Kremlin prefers not to offer an accurate public toll of its military lost on the battlefield. And now in Ukraine, victory at all costs continues to be the approach from Moscow.

An Old, Ugly Russian Habit: Hiding Its War Dead

A soldier from the Donetsk People's Republic places a blanket over another separatist killed during bombardment

Anna Akage

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported casualties of its soldiers only twice: On March 2, 498 servicemen were reported dead, 1,597 wounded. On March 25, 1,351 soldiers were reported dead, 3,825 wounded.

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Western intelligence had estimated in mid-March that 7,000 Russian soldiers had been killed, while Ukraine has recently cited a figure of more than 17,000 dead.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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