Putin denies Russian troops are in Ukraine, decrees certain deaths secret

From the Washington Post:

MOSCOW — If there was one weak spot in Russian support for the Kremlin’s aims in Ukraine this year, it was the population’s strong aversion to sending in Russian troops — something Russia denies doing, despite mounting international evidence to the contrary.

Now, Russia can ignore that evidence — as well as any questions citizens might raise — since President Vladimir Putin signed a decree classifying certain peacetime deaths of soldiers as state secrets.

Putin signed an order Thursday making the deaths of Russian troops lost during “special operations” a secret, amending a previous decree that limited such secrecy to deaths of soldiers in wartime. Some watchers can see only one plausible reason for the change: Russia is gearing up for another military push into Ukraine.

“We’re in a pre-war situation. Right now there’s going to be another campaign in Ukraine,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst based in Moscow, who added that Russia was being secret about losses because “we’re fighting a secret war.”

But war brings about the sort of casualties that can serve as proof of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, Felgenhauer pointed out.

“If foreigners know about the losses of soldiers in Donbass, that’s not very good,” he said, using a term that refers to eastern Ukraine.“But more important is that the Russian public doesn’t know. So it’s going to be a secret, as it was in Soviet times.”

Russia has long denied its troops are operating in Ukraine, dismissing as fabrications reports of training camps, troop buildups and even the testimony of captured Russian soldiers claiming to be on active duty.

Read More here at the Washington Post.