Fighters captured in Ukraine admit to serving in Russia's army: OSCE

21st May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Two Russians captured by Ukrainian forces during a firefight in the ex-Soviet state's separatist east have admitted to serving in the Kremlin's armed forces, the OSCE said on Thursday.

"Both individuals claimed that they were members of a unit of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. They claimed that they were on a reconnaissance mission. They were armed but had no orders to attack," the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported after conducting interviews with the two wounded men in a Kiev hospital.

"One of them said he had received orders from his military unit to go to Ukraine; he was to 'rotate' after three months. Both of them said they had been to Ukraine 'on missions' before," the report added.

Ukraine has charged Captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Sergeant Aleksander Aleksandrov with involvement in "terrorist activity" and promised to release them should they fully confess during a "public" trial.

Kiev is trying to use the men's detention to prove its longstanding belief that the Kremlin was covertly supporting the rebels with high-tech weapons and troops in order to unsettle Ukraine's pro-Western government.

Russia's defence ministry says the two men were once members of the armed forces but had been demobilised by the time they crossed into the Ukrainian war zone nearly two months ago.

Moscow acknowledges the presence of Russian "volunteers" and off-duty servicemen in Ukraine while rejecting charges that they were there under orders from President Vladimir Putin's generals.

The two fighters were captured during a battle in the renegade Lugansk province on Saturday.

The Russian army on Monday demanded their immediate release and promised to open direct talks over the men's fate with the Ukrainian security service.

It is not clear whether such talks are currently being held.

© 2015 AFP

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