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30 Jun, 2015 19:13

From 9,000 to 200,000: Poroshenko’s displays numeracy problem in counting ‘Russian invaders’

The Ukrainian president has named an entirely new, wildly different figure for the number of Russian troops allegedly in Ukraine: over 20 times higher than he claimed earlier this month.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko claimed there is a whopping 200,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. “Today, on Putin’s order, there are 200,000 men and an arsenal of armored vehicles, sophisticated missile systems and anti-air arms amassed in our territory,” Corriere della Sera quotes Poroshenko, who went on to say: “One of these shot down the Malaysian civilian plane last year.”

It is unclear where Poroshenko got the enormous figure, which constitutes about a quarter of the entirety of Russia’s troops, and is almost the size of the entire Ukrainian army. But if Poroshenko’s claims are true, the forces would have to possess incredible stealth capabilities, as no surveillance or intelligence service has detected the numerous troops crossing the border. Neither have the OSCE observers stationed at the border.

The figure is also wildly different from the number Poroshenko himself gave less than a month ago. Speaking to Ukraine’s parliament on June 4, he claimed there were some 9,000 Russian troops in Ukraine, and that the number of Russian forces near the border had increased by 50 percent over the preceding year. The newest number would mean a more than 22-fold increase.

READ MORE: 60,000 military involved in E. Ukraine op – President Poroshenko

Just four days after Poroshenko’s June 4 statement, Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak named his own figure, which brought further confusion to attempts to count the alleged “Russian aggressors.” He claimed there were as many as 42,500 men and an impressive 558 tanks.

Just a week before Corriere della Sera published the interview with Poroshenko, another military official named another completely different number. A representative of the Ukrainian forces fighting against the self-proclaimed republics in the East told the media that there were at least 54,000 Russian troops in the disputed zone.

Since the start of the conflict between the Ukrainian military and anti-government forces in its rebellious eastern regions, Kiev has been accusing Moscow of getting involved. It claims Russia is supplying troops, weapons and armor to the fighters of the self-proclaimed republics.

These claims have been echoed by Washington and NATO officials, but vehemently denied by Moscow, which points out the West and Kiev’s inability to provide any substantial proof to back their allegations. Russia’s Foreign Minister has admitted that there are Russians fighting in eastern Ukraine, but said they were individuals acting on their own volition, without order or consent from the army or authorities.