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Russia claims without evidence it ‘eliminated’ 2 Ukrainian armored vehicles, 5 saboteurs

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine/Flickr)
February 21, 2022

Russian state media claimed on Monday that Russian military forces “eliminated” a pair of Ukrainian infantry vehicles and a separate group of five saboteurs who snuck into Russia from Ukraine. Russia has provided no evidence to support its claims of stopping these alleged Ukrainian infiltrators.

Ukrainian military spokesman Lt. Col. Pavlo Kovalchuk told the Wall Street Journal “This whole false claim of a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance team being caught somewhere near the Russian border is completely false. Kovalchuck added, “There are no Ukrainian service members that are missing in action across the Russian border.”

Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported, citing Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), that an armed group consisting of two Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicles had infiltrated the Russian border region of Rostov before they were eliminated. At around the same time TASS reported, based on another FSB claim, that Russian armed forces and border security forces “prevented a violation of the Russian border by a sabotage group from Ukrainian territory,” in the same Russian border area.

The alleged Ukrainian infiltration comes on the heels of several other claims made by both Russia and pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine, that Ukrainian forces have attacked.

Hours before the Russian infiltration claims, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence tweeted, “The enemy continues to use propaganda methods of conducting information warfare in order to accuse the Armed Forces and escalate the situation. The aggressor accused Ukrainian defenders of allegedly shelling a Russian border checkpoint in the Rostov region.”

The Russian claims of a Ukrainian infiltration effort come as Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders for months, raising concerns in Ukraine and other western nations that Russia will seek to invade. In recent days, western analyses have placed the number of Russian troops gathered near Ukraine as high as 190,000.

Western officials have raised concerns for weeks that Russia would spread fake claims of Ukrainian attacks against either Russian forces or the pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, as a pretext to justify invading Ukraine.

On Friday, President Joe Biden said, “there’s simply no evidence” to support Russia’s various claims of the Ukrainian side initiating the armed conflict.

“It defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a year-long conflict,” Biden said.

Biden credited the Ukrainian side with showing restraint in the face of Russian aggression.

“They’ve refused to allow the Russians to bait them into war,” Biden said. “But the fact remains: Russian troops currently have Ukraine surrounded — from Belarus, along the Russian border with Ukraine, to the Black Sea in the south — and all of its border.”