“This is absolutely incorrect,” Peskov said after a journalist asked him if it was possible to say that Russian military specialists were present in southeast Ukraine at some point of the conflict there.
The comment came less than one day after President Putin told a major press conference in Moscow that it was wrong to say that there were regular Russian troops in Ukraine, but added, “We have never said that there are no people there engaged in solving certain questions, including ones in the military sphere.”
This statement caused NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to announce that the Russian president was admitting his country’s military presence in Ukraine. “He has confirmed Russia has personnel in eastern Ukraine and these personnel have conducted military activities. That is what we normally call soldiers,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Stoltenberg as saying.
“If you read the president’s words without bias [you would notice that] he has repeatedly talked about citizens of Russia and other CIS countries who were going there on their own initiative,” Peskov said in a comment Friday. “Some of these people did not have a particular employment, some took their regular vacations or made a self-sponsored break from work. The people who go there had in their time expressed their solidarity with Donbass and considered it inappropriate to put up with the fact that Ukrainian military forces started to destroy settlements in southeast Ukraine,” Peskov said.
The spokesman further explained that what was going on in Ukraine was a real war and this caused Putin to choose the term “military sphere.” He again stressed that the people mentioned were volunteers and it was wrong to describe them as “Russian military specialists.”