The Moscow Times reports: Legal amendments introduced Thursday that classify as state secrets any losses sustained during peacetime special operations are further confirmation of Russia’s direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict, legal and military experts told The Moscow Times.
The amendments, signed by President Vladimir Putin, make “information disclosing the loss of personnel … during special operations in peacetime” a classified state secret.
Putin has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Asked to explain Putin’s move Thursday, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no immediate comment, Reuters reported.
Military servicemen who are killed, injured or go missing can be considered military losses, meaning their relatives will be forced to keep information about their deaths a secret, lawyers said Thursday.
“Even a death notification sent to parents or other relatives [of a soldier] can be considered a secret under this decree,” Ivan Pavlov, a leading lawyer in the field of government transparency who has successfully defended treason suspects, told The Moscow Times. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: From his hospital bed in the Ukrainian capital, Russian fighter Alexander Alexandrov feels abandoned by his country, its leaders and even the local Russian consul.
Alexandrov, 28, says he’s a Russian soldier who was captured in east Ukraine after being sent there on active duty with Russian special forces to help separatists fighting Kiev. He said he was serving on a three-year contract. “I never tore it up, I wrote no resignation request,” he said. “I was carrying out my orders.”
Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, has repeatedly said there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine – only volunteers who have gone to help the separatists of their own accord.
So Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, another Russian who was captured with him, find themselves pawns in the deepest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
They believe they should be treated as captured servicemen. But Moscow will not admit they are any such thing, or that it has sent any soldiers into Ukraine to help wrest swathes of east away from Kiev’s control. To do so would undermine Moscow’s claims that the separatist uprising there is a spontaneous reaction by Russian-speaking communities against Kiev.
The Kremlin has described the two men as Russian citizens, and Russia’s defense ministry has said they are former soldiers who left the military before they were captured.
Disowned at home, the two men stand accused by Ukrainian authorities of being terrorists.
In an interview from his bed, Alexandrov, wearing a hospital-issue green T-shirt and with several days stubble on his face, told Reuters he felt alone and trapped between these vast forces. He said the Russian consul in Kiev had visited him and Yerofeyev, but had been a let-down. The two captives had hoped Moscow would get them home in a prisoner exchange, but they said the consul had been non-committal. [Continue reading…]