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Russia’s Classified Ukraine Crisis Death Toll Appears to Have Leaked

FROM AUGUST 17: Conflict Intensifies in Eastern Ukraine 0:30

MOSCOW — Russia's military death toll in eastern Ukraine may be officially classified — but it appears to have inadvertently slipped out.

A Russian financial news website published a report — which has now been censored — saying that Moscow has paid compensation to around 2,000 families of troops slain in the conflict.

Russia has steadfastly denied allegations its troops have been sent to assist pro-Moscow rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. However, the Kremlin said in May that army deaths in peacetime were classified information.

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The website of Delovaya Zhizn — which means Business Life — reported that as of early February nearly 2,000 families had received compensation of around $43,000 for relatives slain fighting in eastern Ukraine. Another 3,200 families had received $21,500 as compensation for soldiers wounded in battle, the site reported.

While the article was published in March, it did not make headlines until it was censored this week. A copy of the story in Russian can still be found at Archive.org.

A representative of Delovaya Zhizn told NBC News that the story was taken down after Russian authorities threatened to ban the publication for violating the decree over classifying casualties.

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Anatoly Kravchenko added that the website stands by its story. He said in an email that the piece was based on Delovaya Zhizn’s sources at the Ministry of Defense and information from troops’ families.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.

Nearly 7,000 people have died in the Ukraine conflict since April 2014, according to the United Nations. In March, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said Russia lost “hundreds” of troops in Ukraine.