28 May 2015


May 25, 2015 

Website recounts arrest of alleged Russian soldiers in Ukraine

Vladimir Dergachev, Dmitriy Kirillov in Mariupol, Vladimir Vashchenko, Denis Telmanov, and Andrey Vinokurov, Soldiers of fortune.

Russian Federation Defence Ministry demands that SBU free former Russian military men

Gazeta.ru’s sources in the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] and Donbass militia gave details of the detention of “saboteurs” who, under interrogation, described themselves as GRU [Russian army Main Intelligence Directorate] agents. Kiev is promising to present new evidence of their belonging to the Russian military intelligence service. Moscow admits that they served in the Russian Federation previously and demands their release, while in the LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] the prisoners are being described as members of the people’s militia.

“Saboteurs” seized in combat

The 3rd Separate Guards Warsaw-Berlin Red Banner Order of Suvorov Third Class Special-Purpose Brigade Military Unit 21208, city of Tolyatti: That, according to the Kiev military, is where the officers detained near the village of Schastya [the name means “happiness” or “fortune,” hence the headline “Soldiers of fortune”] in Luhansk Region served. We are talking about reconnaissance team commander Capt Yevgeniy Yerofeyev (nickname Delfin, born 1985, from Kuybyshev) and senior reconnaissance man Aleksandr Aleksandrov, a sergeant serving under contract (nickname Aleks, born 1987, native of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk).

According to the ATO [antiterrorist operation] forces, on 16 May a group of 14 people went on a reconnaissance mission into the region of the Luhansk thermal power station, where the rotation of fighters from the 80th Brigade with a subunit from the Kharkiv 62nd Mechanized Brigade had just been completed.

The substitution took place at 1800 hours but the new observers noticed “saboteurs” in the “bush.” Fighting began, in which a soldier from the 62nd Brigade was killed and two SBU agents from a counterintelligence special subunit were wounded.

The ATO press service published a clip showing a Ukrainian soldier who allegedly took part in the combat clash with the “saboteurs” on 16 May. “An enemy group approached our strongpoint and Junior Sergeant Pugachev gave everyone the command ‘into combat.’ The first shots hit him, he was wounded… A mobile team dragged the sergeant out of the trench and into a vehicle,” the soldier said, adding that Pugachev died of his wounds in the hospital.

According to the service member, after a while it became known that one member of the “sabotage and reconnaissance team” had also been wounded: “They started trying to drag him away and avoid direct contact with us. We decided to move forward in a group so as to locate wounded enemy scouts. We found one of the scouts – it was a captain from a spetsnaz [special-purpose] regiment.” According to the soldier’s testimony another presumed Russian service member, a sergeant, was detained by a second group. After 300 m., the militias opened fire on the group with a mortar and a grenade launcher; one soldier was wounded, so the group decided to return.

The captured Capt Yerofeyev suffered a shoulder wound, while Sgt Aleksandrov had a bullet pass through his thigh. According to Gazeta.ru’s source in the Ukrainian security structures, the group of supposed Russians was accompanied by locals who, by chance, took the “saboteurs” right up to the Ukrainians’ posts in the darkness.

The story of the capture of the supposed spetsnaz men partially coincides with information from two of Gazeta.ru’s sources in the LPR.

“They fell into an ambush near Schastya,” one source said. “The Ukrainians were using a drone, which relayed information on the group’s whereabouts to the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ antisabotage subunits. The result was a lash as a result of which the captain commanding the group and a soldier (from the militia) were wounded. The captain was seriously wounded, the other man was wounded in the leg. Both are being held captive. The Ukrops (Ukrainians) have at least one 200 [body; referring to Cargo 200, a body bag].”

The Ukrainian media issued a video of the interrogation of a prisoner. A young man lying in a hospital bed with a wound introduces himself as Sgt Aleksandr Aleksandrov and says he has been serving under contract in the GRU 3rd Spetsnaz Brigade in Tolyatti since 2012. He calls his commanding officer Yevgeniy Yerofeyev. According to the man being interrogated, his group of 14 people was carrying out a reconnaissance mission and was observed by the Ukrainian military. While withdrawing, the scouts were wounded. Under interrogation, he has difficulty recalling the unit’s name and the surnames, and he also turns his eyes away from the camera, which could be explained in terms of stress following an injury or by reading a text presented to him.

The Ukrainian siloviki showed Val automatic weapons that were taken from the prisoners. This silent automatic, developed by Soviet designers in the second half of the 1980s, is in the armoury of Russian and Georgian special subunits.

The press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff stated after the incident that service members from the Russian Federation Armed Forces General Staff’s 3rd GRU Special-Purpose Brigade are urgently leaving their place of deployment in the city of Bryanka in Luhansk Region.

Meanwhile Gazeta.ru’s source in the Ukrainian special services claims that the Ukrainian military are afraid of an operation to free the prisoners. For his part, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin alleged that the Russian military even tried to kill the prisoners. However, the official did not divulge any details.

Gazeta.ru’s source added that the general prosecutor’s office will launch a case, investigative operations will take place in Kiev, and the case will be overseen “at the highest level.”

“And whatever is heard about this case in the coming weeks will only be heard with the authorization of the president (Petro Poroshenko). Why did they not report the existence of the prisoners immediately, why were there so many ‘civilian leaks’ on Facebook? We have our bureaucracy – that is the first thing. Second, the reports only emerged after it had become clear that there will be sincere cooperation with the investigators. The choice was clear, and they are experienced soldiers. A trial is a chance for life, an exchange, and a reunion with their families. Otherwise everything was clear: There is a war on, and it is not only GRU officers who are disappearing without trace,” the source says.

“I have not heard of frequent captures of Russian service members, as our military are fond of telling us,” Gazeta.ru’s Ukrainian source asserts. “Not every Russian citizen here is a career soldier. And I do not believe that anyone on the other side is going to admit that they have been captured any time soon. There is a war on, and they knew what they were getting into.”

SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko has stated that Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev will not be exchanged.

Defence Ministry has “shivers down the spine” at counterparts’ actions

On Monday [18 May] the prisoners were moved from Kramatorsk to Kiev. They are being treated at the Main Military Hospital, Gen Viktor Muzhenko, chief of the Ukrainian General Staff, stated at a press conference. According to him there is irrefutable photographic and video evidence that these are serving members of the Russian Army. They have promised to publish this evidence “after certain processing.”

If the captured service members really do turn out to be serving Russian soldiers, they can expect to face trial in Ukraine. The possibility also remains that despite Nalyvaychenko’s statement Kiev will try to do a deal with Russia to exchange the prisoners for dozens of people who are considered to be prisoners of war and political prisoners. First and foremost, this could mean Nadezhda Savchenko. Such a deal would mean additional political points for Poroshenko and could strengthen his bargaining position under the Minsk Accords.

Meanwhile Moscow and the self-proclaimed republics are denying the involvement of serving Russian soldiers in Donbass.

Official Defence Ministry spokesman Maj-Gen Igor Konashenkov admitted that the prisoners really did previously “serve in a Russian Federation Armed Forces formation and have military training,” but “at the time of their capture on 17 May they were not serving members of the Russian Armed Forces.” According to him, the leadership of the Association of Veterans of the Special-Purpose Forces had previously asked the Defence Ministry to approach the Ukrainian General Staff through official channels “with a view to stopping the humiliation of their wounded comrades by SBU staffers in the course of extracting advantageous testimonies.”

Konashenkov says that in the course of the conflict in Donbass dozens and even hundreds of Ukrainian service members and fighters from territorial battalions have been captured in Russian territory on numerous occasions: “And the attitude towards them was fully in accordance with international standards, and after being provided with the necessary assistance all of them returned freely to their nearest and dearest within a short time. We are counting on the good sense of the Ukrainian leadership and the speediest release of Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeyev.”

Defence Ministry State Secretary Nikolay Pankov, in conversation with Gazeta.ru, stated: “Our service members were not, are not, and, I believe, will not be there.”

At the same time he suggested that the information given on camera by the hero of the video clip was given under torture.

“We know from the example of the straying paratroopers how the Ukrainians treat service members. To be honest, it sends a shiver down your spine. We have seen nothing like this in the movies or read about it in books. I did not think such a thing could happen in the 21st century. I believe with this kind of approach you could turn anyone into a fine ‘spetsnaz’ man – with addresses, passwords, and rendezvous,” Pankov noted.

Serhiy Kozlov, first deputy commander of the LPR people’s militia, at a briefing, showed journalists the prisoners’ documents, indicating that Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov have been serving in the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed republic since the beginning of this year.

Military analyst and Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republic supporter Boris Rozhin suggested on LiveJournal that the prisoners are Russian volunteers, who may have served in certain Russian units and then gone over to the LPR people’s militia: “It is no secret that volunteers from Russia are fighting there, including former soldiers (I am not even considering the question of people ‘on leave’). Suffice it to recall Strelkov himself, or Motorola, who fought in Chechnya. After all, it was said that these were Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian side, for its part, tried to refute these reports by calling into question the authenticity of the documents shown by the LPR.

Human rights activists will check

Sergey Krivenko, member of the SPCh [Russian Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights] and coordinator of the “Citizen and Army” public initiative, in conversation with Gazeta.ru, promised to check the information on the service members’ names and the numbers of their troop units: “Because there were precedents in August and September, there is nothing impossible about this.”

One of the most sensational incidents involving Russian soldiers in Donbass took place on 25 August. The Security Service of Ukraine reported the capture of 10 Russian service members from the 331st Regiment of the 98th Svirskaya Division of the Russian Federation Armed Forces Airborne Troops (Military Unit 71211). During interrogation and at a press conference in Kiev they said they had been taking part in exercises and accidentally left Russian territory, getting lost in the darkness. At the same time, the paratroopers lacked distinguishing badges, the markings on their vehicles had been painted over, and the convoy had penetrated the neighbouring state’s territory to a depth of about 20 km. Subsequently Kiev handed the soldiers over to Moscow. They were exchanged for 63 members of the Ukrainian National Guard who had been detained in Russia.

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