What does Cargo 200 mean?
Cargo 200 (Russian: Груз 200, Gruz dvésti) is a military code word used in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet states referring to the transportation of military fatalities. Officially, the term Cargo 200 is military jargon to refer specifically to the corpses of soldiers contained in zinc-lined coffins for air transportation. Unofficially, Cargo 200 is used to refer to all bodies of the dead being transported away from the battlefield, and has also become a euphemism for irreversible losses of manpower in a conflict.
The first appearance of Cargo 200 is unknown, except that it came into use in the mid-1980s during the Soviet–Afghan War. The main theory of the term's origin is the Ministry of Defense of the USSR Order No. 200, issued during the on October 8, 1984, coincidentally setting the standardized maximum weight for the air transportation of a deceased soldier's body at 200 kilograms (440 lb). The term saw widespread use in the Soviet military by the late 1980s, spawning the related code words Cargo 300 for the transportation of wounded personnel, and Cargo 100 for the transportation of munitions.
Other Cargo codes:
- Cargo 100: ammunition
- Cargo 300: wounded
- Cargo 400: concussed (in shock) or captured
- Cargo 500: medicines
- Cargo 600: oversized cargo
- Cargo 700: cash or "loot"
- Cargo 800: "special" or chemical weapons
What is a Cargo ID and what is a Cargo Card?
Every individual on this list is issued a Cargo ID at the time I begin investigating their possible death. Put simply, a Cargo ID is just a unique number used to identify that individual quickly. It's a lot easier to remember, say, and find "Cargo ID #150" than "Major Beslan Bachaev".
A Cargo Card is simply the page dedicated to that individual. This nomenclature arose back in the early days of this list when it was short enough to display all of the officers and their relevant details on a single page. Each officer had a small "card" on the page, which could be found quickly by doing a search for their name or Cargo ID. There were no links, and details were limited, but you could see the entire list at a glance just by going to TopCargo200.com. As the list grew, changes had to be made, but the term Cargo Card stuck around, and now refers to the page dedicated to a given entry.
To locate a specific Cargo Card, if you have lost the link (or only recall the Cargo ID #) simply add the Cargo ID at the end of the URL. For example:
[Cargo ID #150] can be found at: TopCargo200.com/150
Why are there more Cargo ID #'s than Confirmed kills?
There are a few reasons for this, but it boils down to two main things: first, some people are on the list and given Cargo ID #'s but not counted towards senior officer kills (dishonorable mentions and oligarchs); second, sometimes I mess up and need to remove someone from the list - but I try not to reuse ID #'s.
To give you a bit more detail:
1) As mentioned above, Cargo IDs are issued when I start investigating an individual, not when they are confirmed. So I have several Cargo IDs that have been "under investigation" for some time, but are not on the public list. Either I have a partial (or no name), I'm not positive on their rank, or I'm waiting to find further confirmation that they are actually dead.
2) Not everyone who gets a Cargo ID # is a senior officer. I include notable kills, deaths, and even sometimes extreme wounds. They are people who are either famous or have some sort of significance to the war effort, or Russian society. Because they are not senior officers, I don't include them in the statistics.
3) Sometimes I make a mistake. I can't speak or read a word of Russian. And translation apps are not always reliable. Different apps can translate the same name in several different ways. "Sergei", for example, sometimes gets translated as "Serge", "Sergey", or "Sergay". Once the list reached a certain size, I had to rely on ctrl+f to see if someone already existed on the list. When the translation varies by even a single letter, that can make it seem as if they are not already there. So they get assigned a new Cargo ID #, and added again. Once I find the duplicate I remove them from the list, but I try to not reuse the Cargo ID # to avoid confusion. I do not believe any are left at the time of this writing.
4) Sometimes I make a different mistake. When I started the list I didn't know anything about Russian naming conventions. "Alexey Fyodorovich Tikhonov" is usually written "Tikhonov Alexey Fyodorovich" (without the comma that those of us in the US would use). In many articles, the officer's home town is also listed right in front of their name. Early on in the existence of the list, I was just not good at figuring out what the "correct" name was. Sometimes I would have "Alexey Tikhonov" and "Alexey Fyodorovich" right next to each other, and not realize they were the same person. Over the months I've gotten comfortable with the naming convention and believe I have removed all of the duplicates at this point.
5) You guessed it, another type of mistake! Very rarely I have enough information to feel comfortable confirming someone as killed, I add them to the list, then several weeks later photos or video of them still alive pops up. In the interest of transparency, I do not remove them from the list in these cases. I mark them as "Corrected" and add the "proof of life" to their details page.
How do you confirm these kills?
This is probably the question I'm asked the most. It's tough to answer this in detail because the process varies so much between officers.
The easiest ones: There are several activists and journalists in Russia that physically visit graveyards and report on recent military graves. These are usually as easy as translating the name, identifying the rank from the image on the grave, and running some quick Google/Yandex searches to figure out their unit.
The easy ones: Various Russian and Ukrainian telegram channels tend to report on these sorts of deaths. They are usually reliable, but not what I consider enough for a full confirmation. In these instances I usually do much the same Google/Yandex searching as above until I'm able to find enough sources that agree the deaths are real. Often this also involves finding their picture and unit information, as the primary sources don't usually mention them.
The hard ones: These are usually the reports from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, or one of the Ukrainian intel agencies. More often than not, they will simply say something like "we killed 3 Colonels in Mariupol today". I usually start this sort of search by figuring out what units are active in the region, and cross my fingers that there is public information about those units' command structure. When there inevitably isn't, I usually start combing through the list of Russian troops in Ukraine that was released by the Ukrainian intel early in the war. Sometimes that gives names that I can dig further on. If not, I have to look for any recent articles about those units and hope to get lucky finding an appropriate name I can dig on. If I still come up empty, I save the report into my "keep an eye out for any other info" folder. Sometimes I get lucky in a week or two and a funeral announcement with the proper rank and unit is made. Sometimes not.
The hardest ones: Sometimes there is just a picture of a dead Russian officer wearing a Major's star on his shoulders. No name, no unit info, no date or location. These suck. It involves parsing out the EXIF data from the photo (if it exists) to get a timestamp and location where the photo was taken; trying to figure out what unit may have been in the right place at the right time; gathering as many pictures as I can from that unit (parade pictures, award ceremonies, graduations, etc.); then running facial recognition on the corpse (assuming the face is visible and in good enough condition) against those images. If I get a hit, I can try to find a name and proceed through all the steps above. If I get nothing from any of the steps above, it goes into the "keep an eye out for any other info" folder.