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Ukraine Releases Video Of Detained Russia Soldiers As Kyiv, Moscow Trade Accusations

  • RFE/RL

A social-media photo of Maksim Odintsov, one of two soldiers arrested near Crimea by Ukrainian authorities, who accuse them of being military deserters.

A social-media photo of Maksim Odintsov, one of two soldiers arrested near Crimea by Ukrainian authorities, who accuse them of being military deserters.

Ukrainian authorities have released a video showing what they say was the detention of two military deserters who had defected to Russia, escalating a standoff between Kyiv and Moscow over the fate of the two men.

Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) chief Vasyl Hrytsak showed the video at a November 22 briefing in Kyiv, in an apparent bid to bolster Ukraine's claim that the men were apprehended after crossing into mainland Ukraine at a checkpoint near the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

They are accused of being deserters who defected to Russia from the Ukrainian army after Crimea was seized by Russian forces in March 2014.

Russia's Defense Ministry a day earlier accused the SBU of kidnapping the men in Crimea on November 20 and bringing them back to Ukraine. Speaking in Minsk on November 22, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the detentions an "illegitimate provocation."

"The detentions were essentially carried out at the Chonhar checkpoint," Hrytsak told reporters, referring to the crossing in Ukraine's Kherson region just north of Crimea.

The video, which the SBU also posted on YouTube, showed the alleged detentions taking place on a bridge between two flagpoles -- one flying the Ukrainian flag, the other flying Russia's -- as the two men scrambled to get back to the Russian-controlled side.

The Russian Defense Ministry identified the two detainees as Russian servicemen Maksim Odintsov and Aleksandr Baranov.

A copy of the passport of Aleksandr Baronov, one of the two soldiers arrested.

A copy of the passport of Aleksandr Baronov, one of the two soldiers arrested.

The video released by the SBU includes an interrogation with one of the men who admits to having deserted the Ukrainian military, though it is unclear from the footage the nature or degree of potential duress he may have been subjected to.

Hrytsak told reporters in Kyiv that the detainees, who face desertion and treason charges, had returned to mainland Ukraine to purchase higher-education diplomas in order to become officers in the Russian military.

Russia's state-owned TASS news agency cited a spokesman with Russia's Black Sea Fleet as saying that Odintsov and Baranov were lured over to Ukrainian territory and then immediately detained by the SBU.

Russia's seizure of Crimea following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 -- and its backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine -- triggered international sanctions targeting Moscow and shattered relations between the two former Soviet neighbors.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, tvrain.ru, TASS, Reuters, Interfax, and AFP
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