Scores of Russian soldiers killed in east Ukraine, claims murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov
Published 12/05/2015 | 11:09
Opponents to President Vladimir Putin claim that at least 220 Russian soldiers have been killed fighting in East Ukraine.
Murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov is chiefly responsible for bringing the figures to light, helping to compile a report before his death that claims Moscow has spent more than 53 billion roubles (€926 million) supplying Ukrainian separatists.
Mr Nemtsov, who was shot dead in central Moscow in February, and members of his party, the liberal RPR-Parnas, worked alongside several opposition journalists to interview families of servicemen believed to have been killed fighting in the east of the country.
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The 65-page report paints a picture which contradicts Moscow's argument that no serving Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine.
The report, which Nemtsov started in 2015 after families of Russian troops killed in east Ukraine asked for his help, said at least 150 Russian servicemen were killed in fighting around the village of Ilovaisk and elsewhere in the region last summer.
Their relatives received 3 million roubles (€52,442) in compensation provided they did not speak publicly about the deaths, it said.
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Another surge in violence killed at least 70 Russian soldiers in clashes around the town of Debaltseve earlier this year, the report said, adding that the relatives of these troops were left without compensation.
Authors said Russian soldiers were mostly forced to quit the army officially before heading to east Ukraine, a move to support Moscow's argument that there are no serving Russian troops there, only volunteers.
They estimated that Russia spent 53 billion roubles over the last 10 months to support Russian "volunteers" and local rebels, as well as provide military equipment.
The report said Russians fighting against Kiev troops in east Ukraine get up to 90,000 roubles (€1,574) a month.
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The West has long accused Russia of providing arms and troops to the separatists fighting government troops, as well as giving them training and intelligence.
It stepped up sanctions on Moscow over the conflict, which has killed more than 6,100 people.
The West first imposed sanctions on Russian businessmen and officials after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, before unrest spilled over to the east of the country.