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Does Russia Bear Responsibility for War in Ukraine?


Vladimir Dzhabarov

Vladimir Dzhabarov

First Deputy Chairman for Foreign Affairs of Russia’s Council of Federation

“Actually, there is a civil war in Ukraine between the DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic], and the rest of Ukraine. It is completely unclear why Russia should bear any responsibility for this.”

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There is overwhelming evidence that Russia is actively involved in war in eastern Ukraine

On December 2, RT’s Russian-language Web site published a report on statements made by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman during his interview with the Russian St. Petersburg TV channel.

“Many sanctions were imposed not only by the United States, but also by Europe because of the situation with Ukraine,” Huntsman said in response to a question about U.S. sanctions against Russia.

“If we can resolve the issue with Ukraine, namely: come to an agreement that will suit both sides, we will get a positive result,” Huntsman said.

In response to Huntsman’s comments, the RT report cited several Russian sources who claimed that resolving the war in Ukraine was not Russia’s responsibility, as it is “not a party to the conflict.”

Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman for International Affairs of the Council of Federation said: “Actually, there is a civil war in Ukraine between the DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic], and the rest of Ukraine. It is completely unclear why Russia should bear any responsibility for this.”

In the same RT report the head of the Center for Russian-American Relations at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pavel Podlesny, said that Russia was “not a participant in the conflict in the Donbas,” but that it was only a “guarantor of the Minsk agreements.”

The statements of Dzhabarov and Podlesny both echo the official position of the Russian government, which has consistently insisted it is not a party to the conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine and that it is a “civil war” between the government in Kyiv and the self-proclaimed republics in the east of the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly denied military involvement in Ukraine.

Ukraine – Citizens of Russia, Col. Igor Girkin (also known as Igor Strelkov) and Alexander Boroday (R) - the leaders of the group "DPR", which in Ukraine is recognized as a terrorist. Occupied Donetsk, July 10, 2014
Ukraine – Citizens of Russia, Col. Igor Girkin (also known as Igor Strelkov) and Alexander Boroday (R) - the leaders of the group "DPR", which in Ukraine is recognized as a terrorist. Occupied Donetsk, July 10, 2014

In spite of Kremlin denials, however, the evidence of Moscow’s involvement in the Donbas war is overwhelming and has been confirmed by numerous open-source investigations, journalistic investigations from international and Russian media outlets, and at times even Russian officials have let details of their military involvement slip.

The key military and political leaders in the self-proclaimed separatist “republics” were Russian citizens, including the first “Donetsk People’s Republic” leader Alexander Borodai, “Donetsk People’s Republic Minister of Defense” Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, “Sparta” Battalion leader Arseny “Motorola” Pavlov, Rusych Militia leader and neo-Nazi Alexei Milchakov.

Both foreign and Russian media have documented the presence of Russian “volunteers” fighting for the self-proclaimed republics. Vice News has conducted series of investigations into Russian involvement in Ukraine.

The international intelligence investigation organization Inform Napalm has compiled numerous investigations of Russian military activity in the Donbas region, based largely on open source intelligence (OSINT). Bellingcat, another OSINT investigation group, has also published evidence of the Russian military presence in Ukraine. Such evidence often comes from the social media posts of Russian soldiers themselves.

Another telltale sign of Russian involvement is the presence of military technology neither produced by, nor purchased by the Ukrainian armed forces, such as the T-90A main battle tanks.

To date, the Russian side has failed to come up with a convincing explanation as to where the so-called “separatists” obtained such a quantity of advanced military technology and the ammunition, fuel, and spare parts to operate them.

Russian claims that the weapons were captured from Ukrainian army supply depots have been debunked as well.

Lastly, Russian leaders and other officials have at times let the facts about their military involvement in Ukraine slip out in public. Even President Vladimir Putin has on several occasions made reference to his military intervention in the country.

We never said there were not people there who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere,” Putin said at his annual press conference in December of 2015.

Speaking at a Moscow business forum in 2016, Putin said that Russia had been “forced to defend the Russian speakers of the Donbas.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while not admitting the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, said in an interview with Bloomberg in September, 2014 that there were “many Russians” fighting in the Donbas.

The “separatist” military leader and a Russian Army veteran, Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, also claimed responsibility for starting the war in Donbas.

Based on the evidence available, the International Criminal Court in November of 2016 determined that the war in Ukraine was a Russian invasion and not, as Russia claimed, a civil war. In response, Russia withdrew from the ICC.

All of this sufficiently proves beyond reasonable doubt that Russia is militarily involved in Ukraine, and, contrary to the claims of RT’s sources, a party to the armed conflict in the Donbas.

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