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Civil war or Russia's armed aggression?

This article contains a few pieces of evidence of the Russian army's presence in Ukraine since 2014 — read on and ask questions if you have them.

Russia's war against Ukraine has been going on since 2014. However, Russia still does not recognize its involvement in it, which not only contradicts international law but also gives rise to Russian propaganda narratives about the civil war in Ukraine.

Photos and videos of Russian vehicles crossing the uncontrolled part of the border and heading to the occupied territories, interrogation records of Russian prisoners who admit to serving in various units of the Russian army, military trophies — equipment that was in Russian service and was destroyed by Ukrainian soldiers — all this and much more testify to the presence of the Russian army in the occupied Donbas and its participation in the war with Ukraine since 2014.

2014, the Russians shot down MH17

On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, with 283 passengers and 15 crew members onboard, was shot down over the town of Torez in Donetsk Oblast; all people aboard were killed.

The Russian Buk missile system that shot down flight MH17 being transported in Donetsk. Photo courtesy of Bellingcat

The international investigation team concluded that the plane was brought down by a missile from the Buk self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile system, which originated in the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, stationed in Kursk. In 2022, the Hague court found evidence that the Buk system was purposefully transported from Russia to the territory controlled by Russian separatist forces, and after the crime, was taken back to Russia.

On July 10, 2020, the Netherlands filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights against Russia for its involvement in the downing of MH17.

On April 11, 2021, the Dutch mass media published the results of their own investigation, which proved that the people involved in the downing of the plane had direct contact with the highest authority in Moscow on the day of the disaster.

On June 8, 2021, at an evidence presentation in the Hague, investigators demonstrated the damage on the wreckage of the Boeing, leading them to conclude that the passenger jet MH17 was downed by a Buk 9M38-series surface-to-air missile with a 9N314M warhead.

2014, Russian trucks in the east of Ukraine

Through monitoring of open sources, in 2020, InformNapalm investigators found that the Provallia Steppe in Luhansk Oblast, where trucks from Russia enter, has long been used by the Russian occupation forces as a base for a separate logistics battalion of the 2nd Army Corps.

There, a convoy of trucks from Russia covertly entered the territory of Ukraine. This part of the border does not have any checkpoints. The violation was recorded by a drone of the international intelligence community InformNapalm, and before that, it was confirmed by the OSCE mission.

A convoy of Russian vehicles illegally crosses the border of Ukraine (OSCE SMM UAV images and identification by InformNapalm)

2014, Russian POWs in Ukraine

In August 2014, during the battles for Illovaisk in Donetsk Oblast, the Ukrainian military several times captured Russian servicemen.

Screenshot from the video released by the State Security Service of Ukraine with Russian prisoners near Ilovaisk

For example, several Russian paratroopers from the 31st Brigade, military unit 73612, and the 6th Tank Brigade of Russia, military unit 54096, were taken prisoner by Ukrainians. After the video with the detained paratroopers was published, the regiment's command admitted they were serving in this unit. At the end of August 2014, they were handed over to Russia in exchange for 63 National Guard soldiers returning to Ukraine.

2014, the Russian tank near Ilovaisk

According to British researchers from the Forensic Architecture group, a T-72B3 tank was used in the battles near Ilovaisk, Donetsk Oblast, in 2014. At the time, this tank model was in service only with the Russian Federation military.

Forensic Architecture used digital modeling to confirm those sightings, which pointed clearly to Russian military presence in the East of Ukraine

2014-2015, Russian military awards for fighting in the east of Ukraine

In 2016, the international investigative group Bellingcat published the results of an investigation proving the involvement of the Russian military in the war in the east of Ukraine.

The facts include photos of state awards posted by Russian military personnel on their social media pages in 2014-2015. Many of the pictures show the unique serial number of the medal. Comparison of these numbers allowed the investigators to conclude that, compared to previous years, the number of those awarded during the war in Donbas had increased significantly, and, according to rough estimates, between 3,000 and 10,000 Russian servicemen took part in the fighting in Donbas in the early years of the war.

Photos of medals "For Combat Merit" awarded to the Russian military in 2014-2015

2018, Russian military convoys in Donetsk Oblast

In 2018, the OSCE published a video filmed by a drone on the night of August 8 of that year. The video shows two convoys of military vehicles. One of them is entering Ukraine from Russia near the village of Manych, 70 kilometers from Donetsk. The other convoy is moving toward the first one and crosses the uncontrolled section of the Ukrainian-Russian border. A total of 15 military trucks are visible in the video.

OSCE SMM spotted convoys of trucks entering and exiting Ukraine in Donetsk Oblast

2019, the Russian electronic warfare system in Luhansk Oblast

In the spring of 2019, the OSCE published a photo taken by a drone near the village of Pivdenna Lomuvatka in the occupied territory of Luhansk Oblast earlier in the year.

The photo shows Russia's latest electronic warfare system, Tirada-2. According to Russian media, the first contract for its supply to the Russian army was signed only in 2018. The Ukrainian military has never had this system in service.

OSCE photo of the Russian electronic warfare system "Tirada-2" in Luhansk Oblast, 2019

2019, the Russian radar system in Donetsk Oblast

In June 2019, on the outskirts of occupied Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast, artillery from the Ukrainian Azov battalion destroyed a modern Russian Zoopark-1 radar complex. This equipment is used to detect enemy field artillery positions.

Development of the system began in the 1980s, but due to the collapse of the USSR, it was never delivered to Ukraine. Zoopark-1 was put into service in Russia in 2008.

On June 3, 2019, a separate Azov Special Forces detachment hit a Russian counter-battery radar system Zoopark-1 near the occupied Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast

Since 2014, the Russian Federation has been publicly denying its direct involvement in the war against Ukraine. However, numerous evidence from international observers and volunteers indicates that Russia began armed aggression against Ukraine in 2014, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

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