Western countries have accused Russia of supplying arms to separatists in eastern Ukraine and sending its own troops to fight against the Ukrainian government army. But Moscow has denied those allegations. Now Vice News has obtained a ‘selfie’ that proves that the Kremlin indeed moved its soldiers to fight in Ukraine.
Russia moved Dambaev’s unit to Ukraine in February
Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky stood in the same spot where, he claims, a serving Russian soldier was standing on the rubble of a ruined Ukrainian checkpoint. The precise location where the selfie was taken was just eight miles west of Debaltseve. Simon Ostrovsky based his investigation on past research from project Bellingcat by the Atlantic Council and other media outlets.
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Bellingcat collected evidence from social media of the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. Ostrovsky researched one Russian soldier called Bato Dambaev. Ostrovsky claims that Bato Dambaev’s unit on Mongolian border was sent to Ukraine earlier this year. This Russian soldier was quite active on social networks including VK.com.
Ostrovsky said Bato Dambaev left a trail of “digital breadcrumbs” while going to Ukraine. One of the photos on his VK.com account was captured in Taganrog, Russia, which is about 40 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border. He appeared in the photo in a jacket with a Russian flag on the shoulder, suggesting that he was an active member of the Russian army. Another photo was geotagged to a location near the Ukrainian border.
Dambaev an active member of Russian army
In one photo taken in February and posted on Bato Dambaev’s VK.com profile, he was carrying an automatic weapon in a military uniform, but without insignia. He also had a white armband. Locals in Ukraine told Ostrovsky that the armband was how separatists identified themselves. The photo was taken in Vuhlehirsk in Ukraine, just eight miles away from Debaltseve.
It proves that he is an active member of the Russian army. The older photos on his social networking profile show him photographed in Russia. Dambaev’s VK.com profile lists his military unit and mentions his years of service as 2012-2016. But when Ostrovsky contacted him and asked how he had ended up in Ukraine, Dambaev said, “I don’t know….maybe you are mistaken.”