Earlier this week, reporters from several Russian media outlets, including Novaya Gazeta, Colta.ru, and Gubernskie Vedomosti, found two fresh graves of Russian servicemen in the Pskov region, where one of Russia’s famous paratrooper divisions is stationed. From interviews with witnesses of the funeral service and burial, it became clear that the two men were laid to rest with military honors but the ceremony was low-profile. In other words, there were good reasons to believe the soldiers were killed in action in Ukraine. Leonid Bershidsky has much more on Bloomberg View.
The influential Soldiers’ Mothers’ movement has spoken out against sending Russian soldiers to Ukraine, estimating that up to 15,000 troops may be involved in the operation. That would be three paratrooper divisions so the number sounds overstated, but could be a sensible estimate of the total number of troops massed by the Ukrainian border. Also this week, Ukraine detained nine Russian soldiers who, according to the Russian defense ministry, simply lost their way and found themselves 20 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, on its wrong side. There’s no way the Kremlin can plausibly deny its involvement any longer. Oh yes, technically the Russians in Ukraine are on vacation or had their service contracts terminated days before crossing the border. But that’s not fooling anyone.
If Russia seeks to establish a land corridor to Crimea (“Danzig Corridor” anyone?), it will probably have to fight its way from Mariupol to Genichesk and the best Ukraine could hope for would be to inflict as much damage as possible, hoping that the parents and the wives of the Russian soldiers demand an end to the slaughter.