Russian Defence Ministry denies serving troops captured in Ukraine

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Interfax – May 18, 2015)

The Russian Defence Ministry has rejected Ukrainian allegations that two men who were reportedly captured during fighting in eastern Ukraine are serving members of the Russian armed forces, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 18 May.

Ministry spokesman Maj-Gen Igor Konashenkov admitted that the two men, who were detained by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in Luhansk Region, had served in the Russian armed forces in the past, but added that this was no longer the case.

“At the moment at which they were detained on 17 May, the Russian citizens seized by the SBU in Luhansk Region, Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeyev, were not serving Russian armed forces servicemen,” Konashenkov said.

The spokesman also accused the SBU of mistreating the two men.

“We have checked the Ukrainian side’s information – it’s true that these lads had served in a unit in the Russian armed forces and had undergone military training. On top of that, I can confirm that the association of special forces veterans contacted us and asked us to contact the Ukrainian General Staff via official channels in order to put an end to the abuse of their wounded comrades by SBU employees as they beat convenient testimony out of them,” he said. “We are counting on the Ukrainian leadership to show good sense and on Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeyev being released as soon as possible.”

According to Interfax, Konashenkov said that, during the course of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, “dozens and even hundreds of Ukrainian service personnel and fighters from so-called ‘territorial’ battalions” have been detained on Russian territory. “The way in which they were treated fully complies with international norms and, within a short time, once they were provided with the necessary assistance, they freely returned to their families and friends,” he said.

Earlier on 18 May, Ukrainian officials said the two men had been taken to hospital in Kiev after being wounded when they were captured near the city of Luhansk. Ukraine also said it had had evidence that the men are a captain and a sergeant in a Russian special forces group.