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Tuesday 23rd September 2014
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Sky Films Troops 'In Russian Gear' In Ukraine

Wednesday, 3rd September 2014 19:43

Sky News has filmed well-armed, well-equipped troops, who appear to be wearing recent issue Russian combat gear, operating alongside rebel forces in south-eastern Ukraine.

The men were travelling in a small convoy, which included an armoured personnel carrier and two machine gunners mounted on pick-up trucks.

The vehicles were marked with the white painted circles that signal allegiance to the separatists, but all other insignia and number plates had been removed.

We saw them being waved through a rebel-controlled checkpoint outside the town of Novoazovsk as one of the guards said: "These are ours."

Russian military expert Mark Galeotti examined the Sky News images and noted the white ribbons on the lead jeep and white armbands, which he said Russian security forces often use to distinguish their men.

He said the most significant aspect was the men's uniform.

Mr Galeotti said: "They are definitely wearing modern Russian kit - the camouflage, helmets and body armour are distinctive, as well as the white armbands I mentioned above.

"The kit is subtly different from the Crimean 'little green men' but again that's what I'd expect, as in Crimea they were Naval Infantry (marines) whereas here I'd expect them to come from the ground forces or paratroops."

He also noted that the rifle carried by one of the men, though difficult to identify conclusively, had extra fittings similar to those he had seen used by Russian Spetsnaz special forces.

Analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies pointed out further interesting features.

IISS expert Henry Boyd said: "In the two pictures you can see the soft-skin UAZ-469, you can also clearly see the discolouration on the front bumper where the number plate has been removed.

"The strong implication here would be that the number plate in question was of the distinctive Russian military variety."

His colleague, Douglas Barrie, also notes that "though not definitive it is interesting to note that the personnel on top of the BTR appear to be wearing helmets similar to those sported by better equipped Russian units".

US President Barack Obama, speaking in Estonia on Wednesday, said Russia had sent combat forces, including weapons and tanks, into Ukraine.

But the Kremlin still denies moving men or equipment across the border.