For several weeks, well-organized, professional gunmen have seized government sites in as many as 10 eastern Ukraine towns – prompting fears of a slow-moving Russian invasion. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has now presented a packet of evidence that it says shows “evidence of Russia's involvement in instigating and coordinating the separatist actions that destabilize the situation in the east of Ukraine" to the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The packet is five pages of photos purportedly showing known Russian soldiers in Ukrainian towns was submitted to the “Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna” on April 16. One soldier who the Ukrainians say is a member of the Russian Special Forces is pictured in Georgia in 2008 and then again in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Ukraine in April 2014. Another alleged Russian soldier is pictured in Crimea in February and in Sloviansk, Ukraine in April. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the photos “only further confirm” the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine. The State Department distributed the Ukrainian packet of photos to NBC News on Monday.
President Vladimir Putin said during a four-hour televised question and answer session on Russian TV on Thursday that the allegations of Russian involvement in Ukraine were “all nonsense.” Adding, “there are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.” But the international community is skeptical of Russia’s denials. Putin finally admitted just last week that Russian troops were involved in Crimea – after months of denials. “Of course, Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces,” said Putin.