Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk confirmed more Russian forces entered Ukraine on Monday after he spoke with the National Security and Defense Council.
“I have just spoken with the national defense and security council secretary,” he said. “Ukrainian military intelligence confirm the fact military personnel and equipment have been transferred from Russia to Ukraine. Tanks, GRAD multiple rocket systems, BUK and SMERCH systems, radio electronic intelligence systems are not sold at local Donetsk street markets. Only the Russian army and Defense Ministry have them.”
Russia did not reply to Yatsenyuk’s accusation.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine began in March 2014 after the new pro-West government ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Pro-Russians in the east retaliated, which opened a door for Russia to enter Ukraine. Month after month Kiev officials accused Moscow of sending soldiers into Ukraine, thus violating the country’s sovereignty. Russian citizens from Moscow took power in the designated separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Moscow still denies sending troops despite a growing body of evidence against them.
Russian human rights activist Elena Vasilieva reported on her website that over 382 Russian soldiers died in Ukraine between January 16 and 19, which corroborates reports that Russian soldiers were, in fact, in Ukrainian territory.
“[I] came back from the war zone. It is impossible to call it an ATO [anti-terrorist operation] zone – it is a real merciless war there,” she wrote. “I’m already afraid to write these numbers. The Russian army has huge losses over the past three days. 382 people – selected Special Forces, marines, paratroopers. Up to 500 injured. More likely the number of wounded is much higher. But we have no access to the full information about the injured from the Russian side.”
Russian families of the dead and missing are finally speaking out. Yelena Tumanova told The Guardian that the Kremlin sent her son Anton, 20, and his army unit to Donetsk on August 10. His coffin arrived home on August 20.
“When he chose this path, we didn’t know they were sending our soldiers to Ukraine,” she said. “If I would have known, if he would have known … he would not have joined up again. Even if he would have, I wouldn’t have let him. But he said: ‘Don’t worry, [the Russian president Vladimir] Putin says they won’t send anyone there.’”
Families and soldiers must “keep silent” about trips to Ukraine. The Kremlin does not provide families with proper compensation if the breadwinner is killed in action in Ukraine.
“You can’t hide this information, secretly bury soldiers, secretly send people abroad to fight,” explained Sergei Krivenko, a member of the Russian human rights group Memorial. “What status do families of the wounded and dead have, what compensation and medical aid? Help from the government depends on this status.”