Monday, May 18, 2015

Russian Military Officers Captured In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine — Two Russian officers captured while fighting in war-torn eastern Ukraine are being transported to the capital, Kiev, a Ukrainian military spokesman said Monday.
The Russians were wounded and taken prisoner near the front line town of Shchastia in the Luhansk region on Sunday, Ukrainian officials reported.
Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have been fighting government troops for a year, and Russia has vehemently denied it is supplying them either with weaponry or troops. When several Russian soldiers were captured on Ukrainian territory last summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin said they had simply got lost.
Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff, told The Associated Press on Monday that the two men are now being questioned by the Ukrainian Security Service and are on their way to Kiev where they will face the media.
A video posted by a member of parliament on Sunday showed one man who said he was a Russian Army sergeant.
The young man was shown lying in a hospital bed and introduced himself as Sgt. Alexander Alexandrov of the Russian Special Forces from the Volga River city of Togliatti. He said he was operating in the area in a group consisting of 14 men and had been based in the rebel stronghold Luhansk since March 6.
He and his comrades had been rotating in and out of the area around Shchastia every four to five days, he said.
Moscow on Monday denied the reports.
"We have said repeatedly that there are no Russian troops in Donbass," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, referring to eastern Ukraine, when asked about the video released by Kiev.
The separatist mouthpiece Luhansk Information Center on Sunday said the men identified by Ukraine as Russian officers were in fact two policemen from Luhansk who had been taken prisoner near Shchastia.
More than 6,100 people have been killed in the conflict, which has left large parts of Ukraine's industrial heartlands in ruins. A cease-fire brokered by Russia and Western nations in February has made the fighting less intense and deadly but the skirmishes between the separatists and Ukrainian troops are still a daily occurrence.
Grigory Maksimets, a medic of the pro-Kiev volunteer Aidar battalion, told the AP that he attended to the men when they were delivered late on Saturday to his hospital in Shchastia, a town less than 20 kilometers north of Luhansk and home to a strategic power station.
One man had been wounded in the shoulder and the other one in the right leg, said Maksimets, who works in intensive care. The men were caught by Ukrainian troops while on a reconnaissance mission around the power station, he said.
The men both introduced themselves as Russian officers and were worried that the battalion's doctors wanted to take their organs for sale, he added.
"They asked not to be sedated because they were afraid we would take their organs," Maksimets told the AP, adding their Russian commanders had warned them about this.

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