Deutsche Welle reports: It was a surprising confession. In an interview with the opposition Russian newspaper, Nowaja Gaseta, (from Monday, March 2) a wounded Russian tank operator confirmed what many have long assumed: That contracted Russian soldiers are fighting alongside the separatists in Eastern Ukraine against the Ukrainian army.
And not just a few soldiers. A day after the interview was published, US General Ben Hodges said in Berlin that the US military was working on the assumption of 12,000 Russian troops in the region.
It’s not the first time such reports have surfaced. On Feb. 19, the Russian newspaper Kommersant published a surprisingly frank feature about the deployment of Russian soldiers in Eastern Ukraine. The article appeared in the online version of the paper, which belongs to oligarch Alisher Usmanov, known to be loyal to the Kremlin. Reporter Ilja Barabanov recounts how he met three Russians who had until recently been professional soldiers. In the second half of January, they went to Eastern Ukraine to fight.
The men said they had fought since Jan. 20 on the front in various units of the separatist army of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk.” Before they left, they applied to end their army contracts and be officially discharged.
Whether or not they were actually discharged, and what their current status is, is unknown. [Continue reading…]