Europe Kiev-Moscow spat over captured ‘Russian soldiers’

Kiev-Moscow spat over captured ‘Russian soldiers’

Dmitriy Kuleba The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

(AA) – Kiev sent a note of protest to Moscow on Tuesday over the involvement of Russian servicemen in ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kiev authorities said.

The move comes a day after Kiev posted online a video of what it claims to be two Russian servicemen captured fighting in eastern Donbas region.

Dmitriy Kuleba, an official from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, told journalists on Tuesday that the presence of Russian soldiers in Ukrainian land violates the Minsk Agreement.

A cease-fire was signed between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in Minsk on Feb. 12 in the second such agreement, which included the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from combat areas and release of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons. Since then, both sides have accused each other continuously for violating the cease-fire.

Kuleba said that Kiev awaits an explanation from the Russian Federation regarding the capture of Yevgeni Yerofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, which Kiev claims to be Russian soldiers fighting beside pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.  

Kuleba said that the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian land shows that Russia is also violating international law.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) showed Monday to the press the “captured soldiers” who are under medical care. Kiev said it would prosecute them for “terrorist acts” in Ukraine.

In the published video, Yevgeni Yerofeev in testimony says that he serves as lieutenant in the Russian army, and that together with other Russian soldiers he crossed the border to enter Ukraine’s Luhansk region in April.

But, Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the detention of men Kiev claims are Russian soldiers is nothing but a show and called on Ukrainian authorities to stop the alleged torture of them.

“Russia Today” quoted Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying: “At the time of their arrest on May 17, the captured Russian individuals Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeni Yerofeev were not active members of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

He said that the duo have had combat training and had served before in the army, but neither was still active.

The advisor of SBU President, Markiyan Lubkivski, earlier told the press that the Russian soldiers were captured in Luhansk region on May 16 and later sent to hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said that the soldiers’ capture “comes as no surprise.”

“This capture only heightens our concern that the combined Russian separatist forces continue to flout the terms of the Minsk Agreements, and Russia has shown little willingness to abide by its commitments,” spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters on Tuesday.

“Regardless of how they are characterized, we expect humane treatment for all detainees, whether they’re held by the separatists, by Russia or by Ukraine,” he added.

Since April 2014, more than 6,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, according to the United Nations.

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