The incident marked the second apparent breach in a week of the tightly controlled war narrative the Kremlin promotes through loyal Russian media.

An online article on the site of mainstream newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, still accessible via a web archive tool, quotes the Russian Defense Ministry as saying 9,861 Russian servicemen were killed and 16,153 wounded in what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

These figures had been removed from a version of the same article visible on the site on Tuesday.

Instead, a notice read: “On March 21, access to the administrator interface was hacked on the Komsomolskaya Pravda website and a fake insert was made in this post about the situation around the operation special in Ukraine. Inaccurate information was immediately removed.”

Russia has not officially updated its casualty figures since it said on March 2 that 498 military personnel had been killed and 1,597 injured. Since then, his offensive has met with strong resistance from the Ukrainian military and volunteer defense forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday that he could not comment on the incident with Komsomolskaya Pravda, saying it was a matter for the newspaper. He said he had no information on casualty figures.

Alexander Gamov, the newspaper’s Kremlin correspondent, said in the same call that his website was hacked and false information appeared on it for several minutes.

Earlier, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak drew attention to the two online versions of the newspaper article and the alleged Russian death toll of 9,861.

“This is only the beginning of realizing their national catastrophe. Because in the real world there are almost twice as many Russians killed,” Podolyak wrote on Telegram.

It has not been possible to independently verify any of the alleged claims.

Komsomsolskya Pravda is among the Russian media who have faithfully toed President Vladimir Putin’s line that Moscow is pursuing a special operation in Ukraine to demilitarize and “denazify” the country – an argument dismissed by Ukraine and the West as a false pretext to invade a democratic country.

Last week, a Channel One State TV News editor appeared live in the studio for several seconds shouting anti-war slogans and holding a “NO WAR” poster during an evening newscast. The woman, Marina Ovsyannikova, was fined 30,000 rubles ($280) by a court after the Kremlin denounced her protest as “hooliganism”.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

By Mark Trevelian