After reporting that they had captured two Russian soldiers fighting near Luhansk, Ukrainian authorities have vowed to present them to the public. Kyiv hopes to prove Russian involvement in the conflict.
The government in Kyiv alleges that Russians are among the separatist fighters' ranks in eastern Ukraine
The Ukrainian government promised on Monday to publicly present the two Russian soldiers it claimed to have apprehended while fighting the pro-Moscow rebels entrenched in the country's restive east.
As the Kremlin has consistently rejected allegations of involvement in the conflict, Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznev told French news agency AFP that "it is very important to present to the world Russian soldiers who supposedly do not exist on our land."
"These are fighters from the third nondivisional brigade of the special forces. They are based in [the Russian city of] Togliatti," Seleznev added.
A spokesman for the defense ministry said the soldiers were being treated for their wounds and would be brought to Kyiv to make their public appearance Tuesday. For the Kremlin's part, it restated that "there are no Russian soldiers in the Donbass," referring to the eastern Ukrainian region surrounding the rebel stronghold cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Proof of Russian involvement?
Details shared with the press by Ukrainian officials suggested that the soldiers were captured in a gunfight in Luhansk province. Vladislav Seleznev said the clash occurred between "about 14" Russian soldiers and members of Ukraine's 92nd brigade, one of whom died in the battle.
The current cease-fire in place for eastern Ukraine, upheld to varying degrees of success, has been in effect since February. Despite the truce agreement, sporadic fighting has continued, often resulting in casualties.
Should Kyiv demonstrate the Kremlin's direct involvement in the conflict which has claimed 6,250 lives in the past 13 months, it might put further pressure on sanction-laden Moscow to change course on Ukraine.
es/msh (AP, AFP)