Moscow: Allies of murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov today unveiled a report based on research he compiled that they claimed proved large-scale Russian military involvement in Ukraine. “We gathered what we think is comprehensive proof of the presence of Russian troops,” said Ilya Yashin, one of the authors of the report entitled “Putin. War” as he presented it in Moscow.
The report — based on media reports and information from families of Russian soldiers allegedly killed in Ukraine — repeats widespread allegations of Russian military involvement in Ukraine that Moscow has consistently denied.
Nemtsov — a former deputy prime minister who became a fierce Kremlin critic — had started work on the report before he was gunned down just yards from the Kremlin in late February.
The 64-page report said the Russian army made two major incursions into Ukrainian territory in the summer of 2014 and in the winter of 2015. Both turned the tables in the fighting and came ahead of negotiations on the conflict. “All key military successes of the separatists were ensured by regular Russian army contingents,” Yashin said of the conflict between Kiev’s forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has resulted in over 6,200 deaths since last April.
The first major deployment of the regular Russian army to eastern Ukraine resulted in the deaths of soldiers around the strategic railway hub of Ilovaisk, with “more than 150 coffins” returning to Russia after fighting there.
After the winter incursion “at least 70 troops died,” including around the town of Debaltseve, which was captured by the separatists shortly after the signing of the latest truce agreement.
Some of the information came from sources representing relatives of the soldiers who approached Nemtsov in February after the government did not deliver on its promise to compensate for the deaths, the report says.
The army forced the soldiers to officially end their contracts before deploying them across the frontier, the
report says, and threatened relatives with criminal cases, forcing them to stay quiet.
Moscow further backed the recruitment of volunteers through army offices and oversaw the “transfer of military equipment” across the border, including the surface-to-air Buk system that was used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 over the Donetsk region in July last year, Yashin said.
Nemtsov, who was serving as a regional MP at the time of his death, made several requests for information from the security services and border authorities regarding the flow of soldiers across the border to Ukraine, however without any response.