Ukraine captures soldiers ahead of peace talks

Aug 26, 2014, 7:55 AM EDT
A Ukrainian soldier stands beside ammunition boxes allegedly provided by Russia to rebels that remain on the grounds of an aeronautical college, as eastern Ukrainian residents cope with the aftermath of months of pro-Russian separatist control of their town of Slaviansk, Ukraine, on July 27, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine released a video of captured Russian soldiers on Tuesday, sharply escalating a dispute over Moscow's alleged backing for separatist rebels in the east of the former Soviet republic. Reuters reports:

The footage was released only hours before the two countries' presidents were due to meet for the first time since June to discuss the conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 people and provoked Western sanctions against Russia.

In Moscow, a military source told Russian news agencies that a group of soldiers had surrendered to Ukrainian forces after crossing the border by accident. Ukraine rejected that explanation.

"This wasn't a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing. He also said separatists were attacking the southeastern border town of Novoazovsk "at this very minute" and Ukrainian forces had destroyed 12 armoured infantry vehicles in the area.

The New York Times points to the martial fervor around Ukraine's Independence Day this weekend, informing Poroshenko's rhetoric going into the meeting:

Saluting columns of troops on their way to fight pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country, President Petro O. Poroshenko, who is due to meet with Mr. Putin in Belarus on Tuesday, warned of a long struggle ahead against “insidious treachery.”
“The events of the last months have pushed us into a real war, albeit an undeclared one,” Mr. Poroshenko said in a speech commemorating Ukraine’s emergence from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. “Over the last six months, a new Ukrainian army has been born in heavy and exhausting fighting,” he said.