Russian opposition activists have released a report, started by the late opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, detailing Russia's military aggression in Ukraine.
Nemtsov, a long-time critic of President Putin's authoritarian regime, was assassinated on February 27 in Moscow. His death is widely believed to have been politically motivated. The murder happened less than two days before Nemtsov was due to take part in a peace rally against Russian involvement in the war in Ukraine.
Nemtsov had for some time gathered evidence and material about Russia's aggression in Ukraine, and although Russian police confiscated his computer and files from his home after the murder, his former colleagues and friends have managed to finish Nemtsov's work and the 65-page report is now public.
Russia has spent over a billion euros on fighting the war in Ukraine
According to the report, the takeover of eastern Ukraine began long before the EuroMaidan Revolution in Kyiv forced Putin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych out of power. It additionally finds that Russian troops have played a decisive role in the war against the authority of Ukraine's new democratic rulers, by backing all the major operations of the Ukraine separatists.
Apparently, Putin's plot to keep Ukraine under Russia's grip began already in 2012. “Long before the invasion of Crimea, Russia's security services began recruiting high-ranking generals and lieutenants in the Ukrainian military, as well as the leaders and employees of intelligence services, who at the key moment, after the invasion, switched sides,” the report said.
After Russia annexed Crimea, separatists began taking control in the eastern Ukrainian oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk. “The motivation was likely the success of the Crimean scenario. The success of Crimea convinced Putin that the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine would also like to become a part of the Russian Federation.”
Russia is estimated to have allocated over a billion euros in last year to fight a war in Ukraine, most of it spent on troops' salaries. The report calls the Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine “mercenaries”, rather than “volunteers”, as the Russian authorities and media have portrayed them. A Russian recruiter from Yekaterinburg said that on average, 350,000 rubles (about 6,000 euros) per month is spent on a soldier. Russia has reportedly sent 6,000 of its soldiers to fight on behalf of Ukraine separatists. At least 200 Russian soldiers have died in the war and families of the deceased were given 2 million rubles (35,000 euros) by the Russian government for signing a promise to keep the matter quiet.
Kremlin also plays a major role in either appointing or dismissing the separatist leaders.
Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight was downed by Russian Buk missile
Although the results of the international investigation into MH17 crash in Ukraine last July, in which 298 people were killed, have not yet been released, the report clearly puts a blame at Russian-backed separatists. It points out that shortly before the crash, Russian media said that the separatists had a Buk anti-aircraft missile system, which could have been only supplied by Russia.
The report highlights open sources, such as a journalistic investigation by CORRECT!V, which suggests that the MH17 was shot down by a Buk system brought from the Russian city of Kursk to protect Russia's unmarked tank divisions fighting in Ukraine. The missile was fired by a Russian officer, as separatists would not have been able to operate it.
Editor: S. Tambur