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Politico says 20 million Ukrainian soldiers would have to die to retake territory from Russia? No, article screenshot fake

IN SHORT: The screenshot was tweeted by the Russian embassy in South Africa. But a Politico spokesperson says the article was not published by the US-based news outlet.

Has an analysis of the war in Ukraine by the US news outlet Politico concluded that it would take the deaths of 20 million Ukrainian soldiers for the country to regain all the territory seized by Russia?

A screenshot of what seems to be a Politico article tagged “research” is circulating online with the headline: “20 000 000 lives for the sake of freedom.” The blurb reads: “And this, as turned out is almost the entire working-age population.”

The screenshot shows a photo of burned-out war tanks on a dirt road.

The text below the photo reads: “As Ukrainian counter-offence took lives of 16 000 soldiers as a result of retacking 50 sq kilometres of land, reaching a main goal of retaking the whole territories back would take lives of more than 20 million soldiers, according to current dynamics of combat actions.”

The screenshot was tweeted by the Russian embassy in South Africa on 5 July 2023, but deleted a few days later. 

“#Ukraine will need 20 000 000 lives to ‘return’ territories – Politico,” an archive of the tweet reads. “As they have already said, #NATO is pushing a war to be fought until the last Ukrainian.”

But the screenshot is still circulating on Facebook in African countries and elsewhere. It can also be seen online here, here and here.

Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, taking over Crimea in the south and occupying the eastern Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk. 

In February 2022, it launched a full-scale invasion that was still continuing by July 2023. Russia has seized large swathes of territory connecting Crimea and the Donbas.

In early June, Ukraine launched a counter-offensive against Russian forces in the southeast but progress has been slow. Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has long supported Ukraine in the conflict and trained its troops for the new offensive.

Online comments on the screenshot include:

  • Politico: "20 million Ukrainian lives are needed to return the territories back" These are the most modest estimates. The MSM already in full swing admits the defeat of Ukraine in the conflict.
  • The authors of the study analyzed the pace of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and came to the conclusion that if the counter-offensive continues at the same pace , then the population of Ukraine will not remain.
  • If ukrainian counteroffensive will keep advancing as slow as now, they will need 20 million more conscripts. They lost 16k soldiers in 2 weeks.

But did Politico really publish the “research” shown in the screenshot?


Signs of a fake article

The first sign that the screenshot is fake is the poor spelling and grammar, and confused writing.

“Retaking”, for example, is misspelled as “retacking”. Phrases such as “as turned out the entire working-age population” and “reaching a main goal of retaking the whole territories” are difficult to understand.

This would be unlikely from an established, award-winning news outlet like Politico.

The article does not appear in the research section of Politico’s website. We searched for the headline on the site, as well as via Google, and could not find it.

Melissa Cooke, Politico’s communications director, told the Associated Press in an email that “this article was not published by POLITICO”.

Politico didn’t publish the article and the screenshot is fake.

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