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Russian military source says captured soldiers entered Ukraine by mistake

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Aug. 26, 2014, 3:28 p.m. | Ukraine — by Ian Bateson

Alexei Generalov, one of the 10 Russian soldiers Ukraine says it captured on its territory
© www.youtube.com/channel/UkraineToday

Ian Bateson

Ian Bateson is a staff writer at the Kyiv Post and has contributed to other publications, including Reuters, Al Jazeera, VICE, and die Zeit Online. He can be reached at ian.bateson@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @ianbateson

Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces entered Ukraine by mistake, a Defense Ministry source has told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

 “The soldiers were patrolling the Russian-Ukrainian border when they most likely crossed accidentally at an unequipped and unmarked checkpoint,” said the unnamed source.

On the evening on Aug. 25, the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, said it had captured 10 Russian soldiers in the village of Dzerkalny, Donetsk Oblast, roughly 14 kilometers from the Russian border in a statement on its website.

The capture of the Russian soldiers comes at a time when border tensions between Ukraine and Russia are already high after Russia sent a humanitarian convoy into eastern Ukraine without Ukrainian authorities’ approval.  Ukraine said it considered such convoys to be a violation of its sovereignty and international law while Russia announced it will send another convoy as early as this week.  

In the statement released by the SBU Ukrainian authorities also provided links to videos said to be interviews with the captured Russian soldiers.

In one of the videos, a man who identifies himself as Ivan Romantsev, deputy commander of a Russian military vehicle, said he had been training near the southern Russian city of Rostov before beginning what he was told were military exercises. 

“My vehicle was hit at and blown up,” he said. “Then I understood it was not just a military exercise and I got scared.  Now I understand we were sent to fight people we shouldn’t have been fighting.”

“They sent us here without informing us or explaining why just as if we were cannon fodder,” he said, adding he couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been told.  

Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied allegations of illegal border crossing and said Russia views all stories about Russian forces illegally entering Ukraine “as part of an information war” in an interview with Russia Beyond the Headlines published on Aug. 26.  

Many former Russian intelligence and soldiers, however, have served in separatist ranks in the Ukrainian east, but no active regulars have been confirmed to be fighting there.

If Russia is shown to be sending its military forces to fight in Ukraine it would be a clear escalation of the conflict with greater implications under international law.

The SBU says it has opened criminal proceedings involving the crossing of the border and will be investigating. 

Ian Bateson is a Kyiv Post staff writer.  Follow him on Twitter at @ianbateson.

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