New Photos Link Russian Special Forces To Ukraine Protesters

Ukraine's fledgling government has released new photos which they claim prove Russian special forces are connected to the unrest in eastern Ukraine.
Posted at 9:24 PM, Apr 21, 2014

If you've been following the unrest in eastern Ukraine recently, chances are you've seen the "green men."

That is, the suspiciously well-armed and well-trained masked men in green uniforms who've seized government buildings and spearheaded the eastern Ukrainian revolt against the new government in Kiev. (Via Euronews)

Since the conflict began, the green men have claimed to be local pro-Russian protesters demanding independence from Kiev. But new evidence from Ukrainian authorities might prove these men are actually special forces sent from Russia to cause chaos.

The New York Times published these photos Sunday, obtained from the Ukrainian government. Ukraine claims these pictures link Russian special forces to the pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine. 

This bearded man, whom the Times identifies as Russian operative Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, is said to be one such link. Strelkov, seen here during the 2008 conflict in Georgia, has also been photographed among pro-Russian demonstrators in the Ukrainian towns of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk.

U.S. Department of Statespokeswoman Jen Psaki called the photos "just further evidence of the connection between Russia and the armed militants."

Ukraine has been building its case against Russia for some time. Earlier this month Ukraine's counter-intelligence agency told CNN it arrested two Russian nationals in Ukraine on terrorism-related charges.

Reports like this lead a top NATO general to describe the unrest in eastern Ukraine as "a military operation that is well planned and organized ... at the direction of Russia."

And Time reports the "green men" are part of Russia's storied tradition of maskirovka: "any military tactic that incorporates camouflage, concealment, deception, disinformation. ... designed to sow confusion and frustration among opponents by denying them basic information."

For its part, the Russian government has repeatedly denied playing any role in Ukraine's unrest. In a press conference Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the claims as "nonsense." (Via RT)

But Putin also admitted Thursday Russian forces did play a role in the annexation of Crimea, which also saw a flood of green men prior to its separation from Ukraine. Previously Putin had denied any Russian involvement in Crimea's unrest. (Via VICE)

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to throw its weight behind the government in Kiev. Vice President Joe Biden touched down in Ukraine Monday, and he's expected to announce a new financial support package for the country. (Via ABC)