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'Sky News' allegedly withholds report about Russian military deaths, fearing Putin's new secrecy decree

According to the Russian news agency RBC, the British television station Sky News has had to postpone a report about Russian military deaths because of a recent executive order by Vladimir Putin that classifies information about the deaths of soldiers “during peacetime when carrying out special operations.”

Sky News apparently learned about the deaths of three soldiers from a brigade based in Tambov. According to RBC, the TV station’s news crew visited the soldiers’ relatives, former co-workers, and acquaintances in Tatarstan, Tambov, and Chelyabinsk. The mother of one of the men agreed to speak to the journalists, saying she’d received a letter from the military saying her son died in a counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus.

The relatives of the other two killed soldiers refused categorically to speak to the Sky News team.

On May 21, oppositionist bloggers Vadim Korovin and Ruslan Leviev published the results of their own investigation into the deaths of Russian soldiers Timur Mamayusupov, Anton Savelyev, and Ivan Kardapolov. Using data collected from online social networks, the bloggers say they were able to determine the burial sites of the soldiers, photographing wreaths on the soldiers’ supposed graves in Russia. Koroin and Leviev also presented circumstantial evidence that all three men were killed in eastern Ukraine during a Russian special operation on May 5, 2015.

Sky News’ Moscow bureau has refused to comment on allegations that it’s withheld the story about the three killed soldiers, but sources at RBC claim the TV station is still consulting its lawyers and will likely run the segment later this week.

A military conflict has been raging in the east of Ukraine since the spring of 2014. Pro-Russian separatists are fighting the Ukrainian army. Kiev has claimed on multiple occasions that Russian servicemen on active military duty are fighting alongside the separatists, while Russia officially denies any involvement in the military conflict.

Since the spring of 2014, human rights activists have found graves of Russian military servicemen who died under undisclosed circumstances. In August 2014, near the Russian city of Pskov, several paratroopers were laid to rest. According to media reports, the paratroopers had died in Ukraine.

In May 2015, activists found more graves of soldiers who allegedly died in combat in the east of Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense has systematically refused to give any information on the circumstances of the deaths.