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Moscow Denies Active Duty Soldier Captured In Eastern Ukraine

Press Service of the Russian Southern Military District

Press Service of the Russian Southern Military District

"[N]o one from the command ever met with [Viktor] Ageyev and couldn't have signed a contract with him...he signed the so-called Luhansk, where there have not been and are no active Russian servicemen."

Likely False
strong evidence person in question was active member of Russia's military

On June 24, Ukrainian forces were reported to have captured in battle near the village of Zhelobok in the Luhansk region a group of suspected active-duty Russian and Russia-backed separatist soldiers, killing two, one of whom was Aleksandr Shcherb, the alleged commander of the group and a comrade-at-arms of Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin), the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and and the Ukrainian Security Service reported.

Among the group of four remaining fighters captured were two Russian citizens, one of whom was Viktor Ageyev, 22, reported by the Ukrainian military as a Russian contract soldier from army unit No. 65246, who had come to fight alongside the separatists.

On July 10, Ageyev gave an interview to the Ukrainian TV channel TSN, and confirmed that he had signed a contract with the Russian army in March 2017, had been given the rank of efraytor, and was from the unit no. 65246 in Novocherkassk. Ageyev said he had come to fight in the Donbas along with Shcherb. Ageyev said he was motivated by Russian TV reports that "Ukrainians are bombing local residents."

The Russian South Military District press service stated on July 10 that Ageyev had been discharged from the Russian army in the spring of 2016, that he was no longer on active duty with Russian forces, that he had not signed any contract, and that the unit indicated was not in Novocherkassk but another city. Furthermore, they said, there have never been and are not any Russian forces in the Donbas.

The Russian Defense Ministry reiterated that Ageyev was not on active duty and called the Ukrainian military’s claim “a lie.”

In an interview with Novaya Gazeta, Ageyev's mother said that she had believed there were no Russian forces in the Donbas until her own son was captured there. She said he had sent her a photo in May 2017 showing his rank of efreytor. That was the last time she spoke to him, and she had no indication he had broken the contract.

Journalists also tracked down friends of Ageyev's who confirmed to them that he had contracted to serve in the army. . And a fellow serviceman also told the Russian service of the BBC that Ageyev had signed a contract to continue service after they had both been discharged in May 2016.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said on June 28 that Ukrainian military authorities had published only the first page of Ageyev's military ID, and did not show the second page that would have indicated his discharge into the reserves. The Defense Ministry also contended the page did not contain a stamp regarding Ageyev's contract.

But on July 5, the 93rd Separate Mobilized Brigade of the Ukrainian Army, the unit that had captured Ageyev, posted on its Facebook page a picture of the second page of the military ID, noting that while it contained a stamp regarding his intake into the army in May 2015, it did not contain any signature or stamp concerning a discharge into the reserves. While no contract stamp was visible, the lack of a discharge stamp appeared to indicate that Ageyev was still on active duty.

The Russian Defense Ministry also denies that unit no. 65246 is in Novocherkassk, as Ageyev claimed. But court records show cases involving this unit in Novocherkassk. found that FourSquare, a location-sharing app, contained check-ins and 8 photos showing this unit marked as in Novocherkassk.

Independent researchers at InformNapalm have recounted how the Russian military disguises some of the units involved in the war in Ukraine.

Russian military and government denials of the Russian military presence in Donbas have been common since 2014, although they have been regularly refuted by soldiers' admissions themselves on social media; by Western military and media sightings of Russian armor and troops; by certain markings on tanks; or by the deaths or capture of Russian servicemen on Ukrainian territory.