Ukrainian government forces claimed that they had captured 10 Russian soldiers attempting to cross the border into the eastern region of Donetsk, BBC reported Tuesday. The report comes ahead of a scheduled meeting between leaders of both countries at a regional summit.
Ukrainian military officials reportedly said that 10 Russian paratroopers had been captured near the village of Dzerkalne, about 30 miles southeast of the rebel-held city of Donetsk and about 15 miles from the Russian border.
A Ukrainian television network, which conducted interviews with the captured soldiers, quoted one of them, named Andrei Generalov, as saying: “Stop sending in our boys…This is not our war. And if we weren't here, none of this would have happened,” according to the BBC report.
A Russian defense ministry official told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the soldiers had “most likely crossed (the border) by accident at an unequipped and unmarked zone.”
However, Ukrainian military spokesperson Andriy Lysenko told Reuters on Tuesday that Russia was deliberately attempting to escalate the conflict in the strife-torn region by sending soldiers across the border.
“This morning there was an attempt by the Russian military in the guise of Donbass fighters to open a new area of military confrontation in the southern Donetsk region,” Lysenko said, adding that a number of Russian troops, in the guise of separatist rebels, had crossed into south-east Ukraine in 10 tanks and two armored infantry vehicles.
He also said that two tanks in the column had been destroyed and several soldiers belonging to an “intelligence-sabotage group” had been captured.
Russia, however, denied allegations that it was in any way supporting or directing the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The news of the fresh clashes came just hours before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, along with senior officials from the European Union, are scheduled to meet at the Belarusian capital of Minsk. It is not immediately clear, however, whether the two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting during the summit, which is being held under the auspices of the Eurasian Customs Union.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had reportedly said that his country is ready to hold talks with Ukraine about the situation in eastern Ukraine where pro-Moscow separatists have clashed with Ukrainian government forces for months.