Russian Court Verdict Indicates Russian Troop Presence In Ukraine, Contradicting Kremlin Narrative
By Todd Prince December 17, 2021
A bribery case in southern Russia indicates the country had troops stationed in eastern Ukraine, contradicting a long-held Kremlin position that it has never been a party to the conflict in the region.
The verdict in the case against V.H. Zaboluyev, the deputy manager of a food supplier in Rostov-on-Don, a region bordering eastern Ukraine, states that he oversaw the procurement and delivery of food to "Russian military personnel located in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR)."
DPR and LPR refer to the two regions in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists since war broke out in early 2014 following the toppling of Kremlin-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The deliveries in question were made in 2018 and 2019, according to the verdict, which was published on the court's website last month. However, media only recently discovered the controversial text.
The verdict states that a convoy of more than 70 trucks carrying 1,300 tons of food - including flour, canned goods, and fresh vegetables - embarked on the regular trip from Rostov-on-Don to eastern Ukraine to supply Russian military personnel.
"This food was intended to be sent to military units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation stationed on the territory of the DPR and LPR," the verdict states.
The food deliveries would be enough to feed about 26,000 troops, according to experts contacted by RFE/RL.
It's unclear whether any of the supplies went to separatist forces
When asked to comment about those details in the verdict, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated the government's position that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine and said the court must have made a "mistake."
The court later removed a copy of the verdict from its website.
The United States and its allies have long said that thousands of Russian troops and large amounts of Russian equipment, munitions, and supplies are propping up separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
The nearly eight-year war between government forces and separatists has killed more than 13,200 people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly described the fighting in eastern Ukraine as an "internal" issue and called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to negotiate with the rebels. Zelenskiy has said he wants to negotiate with Putin.
A State Departments spokesperson told RFE/RL that the details in the verdict "demonstrate that Moscow cannot credibly deny it isn't a party to the conflict" and called on Russia to play a constructive role in advancing a stalled peace process.
The court controversy comes amid growing fears Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine, something the Kremlin has also denied. Russia currently has about 100,000 troops stationed on its border with Ukraine.
The United States and its European allies have warned Russia it would face severe economic sanctions and other consequences if it were to attack Ukraine.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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