Russia's 'Secret War' in Ukraine Technically Legal
Published: September 2, 2014 (Issue # 1826)
The secrecy shrouding a group of Russian paratroopers allegedly deployed to Ukraine has caused an outcry among the liberal media and immeasurable worry to troops' relatives — but it appears that Russian authorities are legally entitled to remain tight-lipped.
Not even in the case of "cargo 200" — as dead servicemen shipped home are referred to in Russia, based on the standard weight of a coffin — is the military under legal obligation to disclose the location or circumstances of soldiers' deaths.
Deploying servicemen to a war zone without warning or explanation does not constitute a violation of their rights either, soldiers' rights activists and veterans told The Moscow Times.
"You take your oath, and then you just go where they send you," Oleg Shvedkov, a retired submariner who heads of the All-Russian Servicemen Labor Union, said Monday.
In fact, the president is even entitled to send Russian troops abroad without parliamentary sanction, at least under domestic legislation, said Sergei Krivenko of the Citizen & Army NGO, who also is a member of the Kremlin's rights council.
Reports emerged last week that Russian reinforcements had saved the day for the embattled pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
Official Kiev, NATO and the White House all spoke of what appeared to be a limited Russian deployment aiding the rebels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied it — as he did during the March annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Russian troops without insignia took control of the region at the time, but Putin only acknowledged their presence when the takeover was finished.
Soldiers' mothers, mad with worry, have swarmed their local military commissariats in recent days and petitioned Putin for explanations — so far to no avail.
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