Kiev ‘milked’ Russian paratroopers incident for publicity purposes
RT:Ukrainian troops crossed Russian border multiple times, and most were released within one day. Why do you think the Russian paratroopers were held for such a long time?
Alexander Mercouris: Because the Ukrainian government wanted to milk the incident for political publicity purposes. They are trying to argue and have been trying to argue for a long time that they are not really fighting the people of the Eastern Ukraine, but that they are fighting the Russian army.
So here they had ten actual Russian soldiers, and they were able to parade them and to put them on television and to show them as proof of the claim that they have been making for a long time – that it is the Russian army that they are fighting, rather than people.
RT:The Ukrainian government claims that there are thousands of Russian soldiers fighting in East Ukraine. Why do we hear only about these 10 paratroopers?
AM: Well it is indeed so. And can I also just say that I've just read an article in the British media by a British journalist who went into one of the towns, that has recently been captured by the rebels, looking for the Russian army and instead he did not find the Russian army there – he found rebels.
The evidence does not look at all convincing that there are any Russian troops there. But one can have unconvincing evidence if people want to believe it. And if it serves a political agenda then that evidence can still be used. And these 10 Russian soldiers were unfortunately, if you like, were a gift from heaven in that respect.
RT:Do you believe the release of these men means that Kiev is ready to compromise?
AM: I don’t yet think so. I think if Kiev does decide to compromise it would be because of the situation on the battle field turning steadily against it. I think the decision to release these soldiers was taken some days ago. And I don’t know, but I suspect, what kind of negotiations took place.
But if you recall, there have been lots of Ukrainian soldiers crossing over into Russia and who knows, the Ukrainians may have been concerned that if they did not release the soldiers they have captured, the Russians might be a little less willing to return these Ukrainian soldiers that have come into their hands. So I think it is probably more likely the kind of discussion that took place rather than this presaging negotiations, serious negotiations. I think we are still a little way away from that.