Undeniably, Putin’s neosoviet regime is the anti-national, above all that politically represses, first of all, namely the Slavic population of Russia, builds the denationalized, imperialist and Golden Horde project. During a March 4, 2014 news conference, Putin called Ukrainian nationalists on Euromaidan “reactionary anti-Semitic forces.” The Putin has repeatedly cited the alleged anti-Semitism of Ukrainian nationalists in justifying Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukraine-controlled Crimea. In January, 2015, Putin inveighed against Ukrainian nationalists — he called them “Banderites,” a reference to the Ukrainian Nationalist and anti-Semite Stepan Bandera (during WWII Bandera led Ukrainian nationalist forces against Soviet Russia).
At the beginning of the Russian invasion in the Eastern Ukraine, the prime ministers of Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk were Russian citizens. Many of the separatist fighters are Russian citizens, with many claimed to be former military personnel.
Baryshnikov is one of the local ideologues of Novorossiya. When asked if there were Russian soldiers here, he replied enthusiastically, “Yes, thousands!” When asked if there were regular Russian soldiers who had “volunteered” to come, he said that this was the case. August 28, 2014. Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko said that around 3-4 thousand Russian volunteers were fighting for DPR militia, he said in an address on Russian TV news channel Rossiya 24. Mr. Zakharchenko later said: “The following reserves have been gathered: 150 armoured vehicles, of which about 30 are tanks and the rest are BMPs and BTRs [infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers], 1,200 military personnel, who are there now, who underwent training for four months on the territory of the Russian Federation. They were brought into action at the most crucial moment.”
In November 2014 russian citizen and ex leader of DPN terrorist, Igor Girkin gave in Moscow a long interview to the extreme right-wing nationalist newspaper "Zavtra" ("Tomorrow") where for the first time he released details about the beginning of the conflict in Donbass. According to Girkin, he was the one who "pulled the trigger of war" and it was necessary because acquisition of Crimea alone by Russia "did not make sense" and Crimea as part of the Novorossiya "would make the jewel in the crown of the Russian Empire". Girkin had been directed to Donbass by Sergey Aksyonov and he entered Ukraine with a group of 52 officers in April, initially taking Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and then other cities. Girkin also talked about the situation in August, when separatist forces were close to defeat and only a prompt intervention of Russian "leavers" (ironic term for "soldiers on leave") saved them. Their forces took command in the siege of Mariupol as well.
The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament and Russian state television channels acknowledged that Russian soldiers entered Ukraine, but have referred to them as "volunteers". Russian opposition MP Lev Shlosberg made similar claims, although he said combatants from his country are "regular Russian troops", disguised as units of DPR and LPR. Shlosberg's newspaper also released transcript of phone conversations between Russian soldiers being treated in a Pskov hospital for wounds received while fighting in Ukraine. The soldiers reveal that they were sent to the war, but told by their officers that they were going on "an exercise". Lev Shlosberg, an MP who was beaten unconscious after investigating the deaths of twelve paratroopers, said, "A great many Russian servicemen have died in Ukraine and their families are outraged but they don't speak out because they are afraid for their lives."
Despite denials that Russian soldiers are not being ordered to fight in Ukraine, in August Vladimir Putin awarded the Order of Suvorov, an award given for combat against a foreign enemy, to the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, a Russian military paratrooper unit, for "successful completion of military missions". At the time, Ukrainian officials reported that fighting between the 76th Guards and Ukrainian military had taken place but Kremlin dismissed these reports.
Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence has estimated, based on "official statements and interrogation records of captured military men from these units, satellite surveillance data" as well as verified announcements from relatives and profiles in social networks, that over 30 Russian military units are taking part in the conflict in Ukraine. In total, there was over 8 thousand soldiers fighting there at different moments. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs says that the Russian separatist side enjoys technical advantages over Ukrainian army since the large inflow of advanced military systems in mid-2014: effective anti-aircraft weapons ("Buk", MANPADS) suppress Ukrainian air strikes, Russian drones provide intelligence and Russian secure communications system prevent Ukrainian side from communications intelligence. Russian side also frequently employed electronic warfare systems that Ukraine doesn't have. Similar conclusions about technical advantage of the Russian separatists were voiced by Conflict Studies Research Centre. Also, according to the Council's estimates the Russian separatists forces have around 36'000 troops (as compared to 34'000 Ukrainian) and out of that 8'500-10'000 are purely Russian soldiers. In addition to that, there are around 1000 GRU troops operating in the area.
Recruitment for Donbass is performed rather openly via veteran and other paramilitary organisations. Vladimir Yefimov, leader of one of such organisations, explained in details in an interview how the process works in Ural area. The organisation welcomes mostly army veterans, but also policemen, firefighters etc. with military experience. Cost of equipping one volunteer is estimated at around 350'000 roubel (around $6500) plus cost of the volunteer's salary from 60 to 240 thousands roubel per month depending on their experience. At the same time the volunteers are issued a document claiming that their participation is limited to "offering humanitarian help" to avoid Russian mercenary laws. They are travelling to conflict zone without weapons, which they are only being given at the destination. Often, Russian troops have travelled disguised as Red Cross personnel. Igor Trunov, head of Russian Red Cross in Moscow condemned these convoys as they make delivery of real humanitarian help more difficult.
In November, Armament Research Services published a detailed report on arms used by both sides of conflict, documenting a number of "flag items". Among vehicles they documented presence of T-72B Model 1989 and T-72B3 tanks, armoured vehicles of models BTR-82AM, MT-LB 6MA, MT-LBVM, and MT-LBVMK, and an Orlan-10 drone and 1RL239 radar vehicle. Among the ammunition, they documented 9K38 Igla (date of manufacture 2014), ASVK rifle (2012), RPG-18 rocket launchers (2011), 95Ya6 rocket boosters (2009) MRO-A (2008), 9M133 Kornet anti-tank weapons (2007), PPZR Grom (2007), MON-50 (2002), RPO-A (2002), PKP (2001), OG-7 (2001), and VSS rifles (1987). These weapons, mostly manufactured in Russia, were seen in the zone of conflict used by pro-Russian separatists, but never "were in the Ukrainian government inventory prior to the outbreak of hostilities".
Amnesty International considers the war to be "an international armed conflict" and presented independent satellite photos analysis proving involvement of regular Russian army in the conflict. It accuses separatist forces for being responsible for war crimes and has called on all parties, including Russia, to stop violations of the laws of war. Amnesty has expressed its belief that Russia is fuelling the conflict, 'both through direct interference and by supporting the separatists in the East' and called on Russia to 'stop the steady flow of weapons and other support to an insurgent force heavily implicated in gross human rights violations.
Russian troops are directly engaged in fighting in Ukraine along the front lines of the critical town of Debaltseve, US Army Europe commander Ben Hodges said on Wednesday.
"It's very obvious from the amount of ammunition, type of equipment, there's direct Russian military intervention in the Debaltseve area," Hodges said as he toured a NATO base in Szczecin, Poland.
Debaltseve is emerging as a major tipping point in the war in Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian troops are currently fighting in the city and the surrounding area as Russian-backed separatists, augmented by Russian forces, encircle the town.
Aside from the number of troops fighting in the town, Debaltseve functions as a critically strategic town for Ukraine. Debaltseve is a crucial railway hub that brings coal into the rest of Ukraine. If the town is lost, Ukraine could face a coal shortage that would place further strain on the country's already failing electrical grid.
Hodges is also concerned that if the city falls, Russia and its separatist forces could take advantage of the chaos and shift their attention to other major sites in Ukraine.