Russians troops in Ukraine

(Note:  I’ve written more on Russia and Ukraine since this post – head to the home page for more).

One of the wilder rumours flying around Ukraine right now is that Russian troops have been flown in and are guarding the Presidential building.  I’m not in Kiev, so I can’t comment authoritavely, but I don’t think these rumours are accurate.  Below I present the claims, then why I think they aren’t true.

So who thinks there are Russian troops in Kiev?

Bob Schaffer, a former US Congressman no less, was in Kiev yesterday, and in the Denver Post he reports:

MP Julia Tymoshenko confirmed that many of the guards are indeed Russians dressed in Ukrainian militia uniforms. They’re bedecked in riot gear — helmets, face shields, 3′ riot shields, black uniforms, etc.

An Assistant Secretary of State (U.S.) told the Russians the U.S. is upset Putin prematurely congratulated Yanukovich. The Russians responded with a statement the U.S. is out of line in objecting.

The presence of Russian troops here is a very serious international incident. This causes great tension between the U.S. and Russia.

There is simply no way these soldiers should be deployed here.

The Kyiv Post contacted the Russian Embassy for confirmation and was told:

The Russian Embassy in Kyiv would neither confirm or deny whether Russian troops were in Kyiv.

And Maidan tells us that the Russian troops were flown in overnight:

“Yesterday at night between 1:00 and 4:00 four airplanes with Russian military troops (approx. 400-450 persons) landed in Ivano_Frankivsk. They were dressed into uniform of Ukrainian troops and were sent to Kyyiv by buses. At the moment of planes arrival, the airport was surrounded by military forces.”

Why I don’t think Russian troops are in Kiev.

  1. Russia can be stupid at times, but not that stupid. 
  2. Russia would be condemned internationally for interfering in the affairs of another sovereign state.
  3. It be hugely embarrassing for Putin and Russia if they don’t succeed.
  4. What can Russian troops do that pro-Yanukovych Ukrainian troops can’t?
  5. If Victor Yushchenko wins, Russia would have zero chance of good relations with Ukraine.
  6. If Victor Yanukovych wins he will not be able to shake the image of him as a Russian puppet.
  7. Lots of Ukrainian soldiers are ethnically Russian.  They are more likely to be supporters of pro-Russian candidate Yanukovych.  Therefore, they are the troops he is most likely to call on in an emergency.  These soldiers will speak Russian, and most probably with a Russian accent.  Mistaking them for real Russians is quite possible.

Of course, if it really does turn out that there are Russian troops in Kiev, I’ll be the one looking stupid…

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5 Responses

  1. FH says:

    You would use Russian troops if you can’t trust your own. Its a classic move by authoritarian’s to secure power. Bring in loyal troops, in this case auxilaries, and use them to “keep the peace”. As for the Russians having much to lose, that is quite true. But given what Putin has been doing to Democracy inside Russia, I dare say this isn’t too much of a surprise.

  2. FH says:

    The more I read your post, the more I realize you have a point. Best to wait for information that is more reliable.

  3. Andy says:

    True, but I don’t think in this case that Yanukovych would have been *that* worried about his own troops. He can use ethnic Russian troops that already make up much of the Ukrainian army if it becomes necessary.

    And, besides – what real difference are a few hundred Russian troops going to make? If it gets to the point of a serious fight, Russian troops are likely to be just as unreliable as any other. What Russian soldier really gives a damn about Ukraine?

    And, when push comes to shove, would Putin really back Yanukovych to the hilt? What if his troops lost the fight? He’d have effectively embroiled Russia in a war with Ukraine, and several hundred Russian troops would become Prisoners of War.

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  2. November 24, 2004

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