MOSCOW (AP) — A report released Tuesday containing material compiled by slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said at least 220 Russian soldiers died in two battles in eastern Ukraine within the past year.
The Russian Defense Ministry has denied that any of its soldiers have fought in Ukraine, saying that the Russians who have joined the armed separatists were volunteers.
The report claimed the soldiers were released from their duties in the army and listed as volunteers. The Defense Ministry promised to pay compensation if the soldiers were killed or wounded, but failed to live up to its commitments, the report said.
The 64-page report was compiled from witness reports in media accounts and information gathered by Nemtsov, including from relatives and other representatives of the dead soldiers. It was presented to the public by other opposition figures from the political party that Nemtsov co-chaired.
Nemtsov was shot dead on Feb. 27 in central Moscow. Five suspects, including a Chechen police officer, were arrested in the killing, but investigators haven’t named a suspected mastermind and the motive remains unclear.
According to Nemtsov’s sources, at least 150 Russian soldiers died in August 2014. Their relatives received 2 million rubles (now worth about $40,000) in compensation and signed non-disclosure documents.
Around 70 Russian soldiers died in January and February in fighting around the city of Debaltseve, the report said, adding that their family members were unable to receive compensation and appealed to Nemtsov for help.