Video footage has emerged from Russian state-controlled television, reportedly shot inside the Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine, showing soldiers with the insignia of the Russian Naval Infantry, or Russian Marines, on their uniforms, according to reports from Ukraine Today, an independent Kiev-based TV station. If verified, the video refutes Russia’s denial that it is providing soldiers to fight alongside pro-Russia separatists in East Ukraine.
The Kremlin-backed TV station Rossiya 1 first broadcast the video on Jan. 15. The Ukraine government claims that around 700 Russian troops arrived in the country on Monday.
The footage, first analyzed by Russian Internet news provider Lenta Novostiy, clearly shows a soldier in camouflage with the military insignia of the Russian Marines, but it’s unclear if that image is from the Donetsk airport. The rest of the broadcast shows images of the airport, which has been devastated by months of fighting.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk emphasized his government’s belief Monday that the equipment used by the rebel fighters must have come from Russia, saying the rebels' artillery, anti-aircraft systems and tanks “can’t be bought at a bazaar in Donetsk or the Russian Federation. They can only come from the stock of the Russian Defense Ministry.”
The battle for Donetsk airport has raged since September. The Ukrainian military held its position inside the airport's newly built terminal until last week, when two pro-Russian battalions encircled the strategic site and forced a partial retreat of the Ukrainian soldiers. Reports emerged saying the rebels had captured the terminal, but the Ukrainian government denied them and said its troops were still in control.
Hostilities in East Ukraine should have ended with the ceasefire signed last September in Minsk, Belarus, but they have continued on and off while the agreement remained formally in place. Fighting has intensified in the past week after peace talks due to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, were canceled. Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany all agreed that not enough progress had been made since the Minsk ceasefire was signed.