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Families of Russian Troops in Ukraine Want Answers

Published: August 30, 2014 (Issue # 1826)



  • Captured Russian paratroopers are seen in this image taken from video in Kiev on Wednesday, adding to a growing body of evidence that Russia, despite its denials, is sending regular troops and weapons to support the separatists in their increasingly deadly fight against Ukrainian forces.
    Photo: AP Photo/Channel 5

MOSCOW — The last time Valeria Sokolova saw her husband, the 25-year-old paratrooper told her that he and his fellow soldiers were heading for military exercises in southern Russia, near the Ukrainian border.

"He was vague in a way that was very unusual, and it was hard for all of them to say goodbye," Sokolova told The Associated Press, recounting their conversation from earlier this month.

On Monday, 10 men from his division were captured in eastern Ukraine amid fighting between pro-Moscow separatists and Ukrainian troops. At least two others from the division were killed and an unspecified number were wounded.

Sokolova, the mother of a 6-year-old boy, does not know the fate of her husband, and she said Russian military officials have released no information about the servicemen. She fears for his safety.

Similar questions are being raised by families of other Russian servicemen about unexplained deaths and missing or captured soldiers who are said to be on military exercises. The answers could undermine public support for President Vladimir Putin and his policies in Ukraine.

The government has released little information about those killed while fighting with the rebels — a policy that some have compared to one used during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s. This secrecy may become more difficult to maintain if the death toll grows.

Sokolova, who declined to identify her husband further because she worries it could have consequences for him, said she and other army wives converged on the local garrison to demand answers.

"Only through each other did we find out the number of killed, wounded," she told the AP by telephone from Kostroma, a city 350 kilometers (210 miles) north of Moscow.

Russian officials, including Putin, have said the captured paratroopers had gotten lost and wandered over the border by mistake.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during today’s “Djembe and Vuvuzela,” a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of today’s round table discussion on “Interaction with Trade Unions” being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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