Ukraine has denied a Russian claim that Ukrainian soldiers fought alongside Georgian troops in last year's war with Russia.
On August 24 -- Ukraine's Independence Day -- a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee said Russia had "irrefutable evidence" that militants from the Ukrainian nationalist organization UNA-UNSO (Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense) fought in the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
Russian state television aired amateur video shot on a cellular telephone of Georgian soldiers drinking alcohol in an outdoor setting with people identified as their Ukrainian instructors, allegedly before the conflict.
The same report included footage of Ukrainian surface-to-air missile systems being fired against Russian aircraft during the war -- missile systems which, according to the Russian Investigative Committee, had undergone technical maintenance in Ukraine two months before the war -- and "people speaking with a Ukrainian accent" searching the body of a dead Russian pilot and giving orders to Georgian soldiers standing nearby.
"The involvement of career officers of the Ukrainian army [in the war] is already part of this neighboring country's state policy," concluded the report.
But the Ukrainian Defense Ministry has said no Ukrainian troops fought in the war. Speaking to RFE/RL's Russian Service
, UNA-UNSO spokesman Ihor Mazur also denied the claim.
"I can responsibly say that neither UNA-UNSO units, nor its individual members were present in the conflict zone. After the conflict, a group of our guys went [to the conflict zone] to document the results of the war," said Mazur to RFE/RL in Kyiv.
"We think this is yet another trick by Russia's intelligence services to cover up their incompetence by inventing a myth about 200 or 300 fighters. They have failed to produce any real documents, any passports. They are bluffing again ahead of the presidential election in Ukraine to put pressure on [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko."
Less than two weeks ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a letter to his Ukrainian counterpart
complaining of an array of alleged insults and offenses.
Analysts in Ukraine viewed Medvedev's letter as a transparent attempt to undercut Yushchenko's reelection possibilities. The latest Russian claim of Ukrainian involvement in the 2008 armed conflict is likely to further roil relations between Moscow and Kyiv.
-- Pavel Butorin