Russian military sources quoted by state agencies on Tuesday said that Russian troops captured by Kiev and shown on Ukrainian television had crossed the border accidentally.
“The soldiers were really taking part in patrolling a section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, they crossed it most likely by accident, on an unequipped, unmarked section,” a defence ministry source was quoted as saying by three Russian news agencies.
A Russian defence ministry spokesman told AFP that he could not comment on the reports. Ukraine’s security service said on Monday that 10 Russian paratroopers were captured near the Ukrainian village of Dzerkalne.
The village is located about 20 to 30 kilometres from the border with Russia and 50 kilometres southeast of the rebel hub Donetsk. The defence ministry source quoted by the RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS and Interfax news agencies, said that the soldiers “did not put up any resistance on capture as far as we know.”
Kiev and the US have repeatedly accused Moscow of stoking the separatist insurgency raging in its east but this is the first time Ukrainian authorities claimed to have taken captive soldiers from Russia’s regular army.
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The Russian source claimed that a total of more than 500 Ukrainian troops had crossed over the border into Russia on a number of occasions, including in armed vehicles. Russia “did not make a huge fuss about it” and allowed them to cross back into Ukrainian territory, the source said.