Russia claims five Ukrainian soldiers killed in border firefight
Russia’s armed forces have reported that its troops opened fire on a “Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group” that attempted to cross into the country, killing five servicemen and destroying their vehicles.
In a statement issued on Monday, military chiefs said that “a unit of the Southern Military District, alongside a border patrol by the Russian Federal Security Service, prevented a sabotage and reconnaissance group from violating the Russian state border from the territory of Ukraine.”
Five Ukrainian soldiers were killed and no Russian servicemen were injured during the firefight, they reported. The ministry added that during the attack, two combat vehicles belonging to Kiev’s armed forces crossed into Russian territory in an attempt to rescue the alleged saboteurs. Both vehicles are said to have been destroyed. However, the location of the purported firefight has not been revealed.
Responding to the reports of the attack, Ukraine’s military has said that Moscow’s claims of an attempted incursion by saboteurs are false. RIA Novosti also reports that a top official at Kiev's Ministry of Internal Affairs branded the claims “fake news.”
The incident comes amid reports of increased fighting between the two breakaway self-declared Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk and Kiev's forces in recent days, with both sides accusing each other of heavy shelling.
Rebel leaders in the two republics claimed on Friday they have intelligence that Kiev is poised to order an offensive aimed at recapturing the separatist regions, which declared their autonomy after the country’s government was toppled following the 2014 Maidan.
Ukraine insists it has no plans to launch an invasion of the Donbass, and on Friday, Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, claimed that “there is an attempt to provoke our forces,” adding that Ukrainian troops “can only open fire if there will be a threat to the lives of our service members.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a diplomatic resolution to the increasingly tense situation. “All Kiev needs to do is sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Donbass and agree on political, military, economic, and humanitarian measures to end this conflict. The sooner this happens, the better,” he insisted.
Earlier this month, Washington said that it believes Russia is working to stage a ‘false flag’ incident in order to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has consistently denied the allegations, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov slamming classified intelligence reports aired by the US as “hysteria.”