Two Russian special forces soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine will be prosecuted for “terrorist crimes” committed during a mission of sabotage that killed a government soldier, Ukraine’s State Security Service chief said Monday.
The capture of the two wounded men, one of whom is shown confessing in a video posted by a Ukrainian lawmaker, has delivered fresh proof to the embattled government in Kiev that Russian forces are providing arms and backing to the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The interception of the Russians coincided with reinvigorated U.S.-Russian diplomacy following Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Both pledged to use their influence with the combatants in Ukraine to salvage a three-month-old cease-fire and peace plan that has all but collapsed.
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland subsequently was dispatched to build on the effort to shore up the peace plan brokered by European mediators in the Belarus capital of Minsk by meeting with diplomatic counterparts in Kiev and Moscow. Nuland met in Moscow on Monday with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and human rights advocate Lyudmila Alekseyeva.
But the capture of apparent members of the elite Russian special forces in the front-line town of Shchastia in the separatist-controlled Luhansk region could cast doubt on the sincerity of Putin’s professed support for a Feb. 12 peace plan agreed to by Ukraine, Russia and the separatists.