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article imageUkraine court orders arrest of two 'Russian soldiers'

By AFP     May 22, 2015 in World

A Kiev court on Friday ordered two suspected Russian soldiers who were captured by Ukrainian troops in the separatist east to be placed in pre-trial detention until July 19.

Ukraine has charged Captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Sergeant Aleksander Aleksandrov with involvement in "terrorist activity" and promised to release them should they fully confess during a "public" trial.

Kiev is trying to use the men's detention to prove its longstanding belief that the Kremlin was covertly supporting the rebels with high-tech weapons and troops in order to unsettle Ukraine's pro-Western government.

Russia's defence ministry says the two were once members of the armed forces but had been demobilised by the time they crossed into the Ukrainian war zone nearly two months ago.

But both soldiers have confirmed to European observers and the media that they are still enlisted in the Russian armed forces.

They further accuse Moscow generals of washing their hands of their case for political reasons.

Aleksandrov's attorney said she still planned to appeal the ruling.

"The charges are groundless," defence lawyer Oksana Sokolovska told reporters.

A judge of Kiev's district court (L) listens to one of the two captured Russian soldiers partic...
A judge of Kiev's district court (L) listens to one of the two captured Russian soldiers participating in the trial by videoconference on May 22, 2015
Genya Savilov, AFP

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) who visited the wounded soldiers at their Kiev military hospital said that both had "claimed that they were members of a unit of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation."

"Both of them said they had been to Ukraine 'on missions' before," it added on Thursday in a daily report.

But Russia's dominant government-run media are still portraying the soldiers as volunteers.

Aleksandrov told a Moscow opposition newspaper that he was particularly upset to hear that his wife this week told a Russian state TV reporter that her husband had quit the army long before he was captured in Ukraine.

"Why would she say something like that," he was quoted as saying in exasperation by Moscow's Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Friday referred to the two soldiers only as "Russian citizens" who the Kremlin was trying to "liberate... from captivity."

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