Ukraine claims ‘9,000 Russian soldiers’ in separatist east

Ukraine’s security authorities claim that thousands of Russian soldiers in restive eastern region where they fight against Kiev army despite fragile ceasefire still in force

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Ukraine has claimed that nearly “9,000 Russian soldiers” have been operating in the Donbass region side by side with the separatists against Kiev army.

Deputy commander of Kiev’s “Anti-terrorist Operation Center” Sergey Galushko said on Friday Russia has been deploying on the border some additional troops whose numbers had reached at nearly 9,000 in the separatist eastern region despite a ceasefire signed in Minsk in February was still in force.

Galushko further claimed that Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian territories have 532 armoured vehicles, 153 cannons, 190 tanks, 89 multiple launch rocket systems, 66 air defence vehicles and four tactical missile systems.

He said that Russian soldiers have been assisting to an estimated 33,000 separatists who have unilaterally declared their own-republics by the help of Moscow.

The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has recently said that the tension might be re-escalated gradually although the belligerent parties still commit to a fragile peace accord which suggests to withdraw all heavy artilaries as well as human powers from the frontline.

The UN Human Rights Office reported by the very beginning of this month that there were some growing signs of evidence of Russian intervention without conclusive legal proof whereas death toll had increased to 6,420 people in eastern Ukraine during the 13 months of sporadic fierce fightings.  

Since Ukrainian authorities have shown two Russian soldiers who were captured during a battle with the pro-Russian separatists, both Ukraine and the West started to voice up against Russia’s alleged role in the country’s restive east.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak warned the international observers which monitor the Ukraine conflict about that Russia has been keeping its frontline forces in the east where Kiev army and pro-Russian separatists could resume fights soon although Moscow claims that it abides by the Minsk ceasefire.

Russia denies such allegations and accusations made by both Kiev and the West and says that its soldiers have only been patrolling the porous borders with the eastern Ukraine.

Moscow also said the two captives were former soldiers who had already left the military and they were very likely to be “volunteer soldiers” backing the separatists.

But the capture of the soldiers came just days after the release of a report published by the Russian opposition claiming at least 220 Russian soldiers were killed in the war in eastern Ukraine in the past year.

If the allegations are proven to be right, Russia might face off with the accusations of war crimes and potentially a trial at the Hague International Criminal Court which the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin had previously announced his country wants to join in the near future.

The EU on Wednesday extended economic sanctions six months more due next January that had previously been imposed upon Moscow last year following the Russian annexation of Crimea and its alleged roles in eastern Ukraine crisis.

The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Russia's reaction would be based on the "principle of reciprocity" and Moscow would wait for an official EU announcement before making any move.

The EU foreign ministers next Monday are expected to have confirmed the Brussels’ decision to prolong economic pressure in order to dissuade Moscow which was accused of not abiding by the Minsk ceasefire protocol regarding the conflicts in the Donbass region.

But Putin stated on Tuesday that Russia was still committing the truce which he perceives as balanced and fair and said if Russia did not agree with its contents, it would not have signed it.

TRTWorld and agencies