A leader of pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine has reportedly admitted that thousands of Russians have been fighting alongside his troops.
The BBC report that Alexander Zakharchenko told Russian television that he estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 Russians had joined the ranks, and claimed that they were either former Russian service members or current military personnel on leave. However, he also insisted that any Russians who went to flight did so voluntarily and not on orders from superiors in Moscow.
Ukraine and its Western allies have repeatedly accused Russia of providing weapons and training to the rebels, who declared independence from Kiev in two eastern districts this past April following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Moscow, in turn has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Zakharchenko’s admission came as the rebels appeared to have captured the strategic town of Novoazovsk in southeastern Ukraine. On Thursday morning, an Associated Press journalist saw rebel checkpoints at the outskirts and was told he could not enter. One of the rebels said there was no fighting in the town.
Novoazovsk, which lies along the road connecting Russia to the Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula, had come under shelling for three days, with the rebels entering on Wednesday. The southeastern portion of Ukraine along the Azov Sea previously had escaped the fighting engulfing areas to the north. The loss of Novoazovsk could open the way for the rebels to advance on the much larger port of Mariupol.
The new southeastern front raised fears that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already has lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.
President Petro Poroshenko announced in a statement published online that he was canceling a visit to Turkey for the inauguration of newly elected president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and calling a snap session of Ukraine’s security council.
“I have decided to cancel my visit to Turkey because of the sharp escalation of the situation in the Donetsk region… as Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” he said. “Today the president’s place is in Kiev.”
A pro-government militia fighter told Reuters that in addition to taking Novoazovsk, the rebels had captured a strategic hill just east of Donetsk, one of two major rebel strongholds that Ukrainian forces had surrounded in recent weeks.
The recent reversals by Kiev’s forces have prompted claims from Ukraine that Russian forces have crossed the border in an effort to open a new front and prevent pro-government forces from dealing a decisive blow to the rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk.
U.S. officials tell Fox News that they believe that Russian special forces are fighting in Ukraine, with one saying “if you look at a Russian separatist, it is basically a Russian soldier.” A senior U.S. defense official also told Fox News that the Pentagon has seen evidence that Russia has fired artillery inside Ukrainian territory at Ukraine military positions in recent days. “This is not the first time,” the official said. However, U.S. officials are not ready to declare that Russia has begun invading Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt posted the following statement in three Twitter messages Thursday: “Russian supplied tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and multiple rocket launchers have been insufficient to defeat Ukraine’s armed forces. So now an increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory. Russia has also sent its newest air defense systems including the SA-22 into eastern Ukraine & is now directly involved in the fighting.”
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
3 thoughts on “Ukraine rebel leader reportedly admits thousands of Russians fighting with separatists”
The level of hypocrisy would be laughable were it not so serious. Since the Ukraine military uses Russian weaponry, it is hardly surprising the rebels would be using the same captured weapons. I guess its really terrible for Russian Spetznaz to be there, but OK for NATO advisors and US paid mercenaries to fight on the Ukraine side. And so on and so forth ad nauseum.
One has to ask; How does the son of a Biden, Hunter, become a chairman on the corporate board of a Ukrainian energy supplier?
Answer; His dad, Joe ‘the jesuit jeneral’ Biden, your “vice’ president , is in legion with the psycho’s behind the curtain, pulling the levers
Expect more deathly illusion to be perpetrated in the Ukraine and everywhere else for that matter
Ordo ab Cao is the rule of the day
Problem is the elites themselves came up with the “Ordo ab cao” thing and, as usual, their hubris will get the best of them…what Obama and his owners fail to realize is there is only so much “cao” they can create for “ordo” to come about, and IMHO they are exceeding their “cao” limits. When the elites were just merely privileged son types (that is, when they came up with the “ordo ab cao” meme) they had not quite reached the level of total psychopathy. Now that they are unmitigated total psychopaths, there will be NO “ordo ab cao”–that is, there will be total chaos…the outcome is located in the Book of Revelation and other similar places.