Not even 24 hours of the war had passed when the official account of the Russian district of Alagir reported that Aslan Mukhtarov had died. Acquaintances on social media commented on how Mukhtarov, 29, who died near the city of Kharkiv, was a «likeable, great guy.» The story appeared on a Russian news portal, as well. A few hours later, though, the district administration’s post had been deleted.
Around the same time, BBC journalist Olga Ivshina and a colleague began archiving news stories of a similar nature. She noted that there are no accurate figures available on Russian deaths in World War II, Afghanistan, Chechnya or Georgia. Ivshina and others didn’t want to see the same thing happen in Ukraine.
Journalists with the portal Mediazona, founded by two members of the Kremlin-critical punk band Pussy Riot, have also began collecting reports about Russian casualties in the early days of the war. A few weeks later, they decided to join forces with BBC journalist Ivshina and her colleagues. Since then, they have been operating the database together.