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The Kremlin's Secret War: Russia's - Meeting The Donbas Battalion: Russian - Ufl Video Sharing.

The Kremlin's Secret War: Russia's Meeting the Donbas Battalion: Russian 4 months ago   29:15

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The bitter conflict in Ukraine has cost thousands of lives, but the Russian government has continuously denied sending its soldiers to the frontlines, despite accusations to the contrary from NATO and Western officials.

Since August 2014, a small but steady stream of coffins began arriving in villages across Russia, containing the maimed bodies of soldiers killed in “unknown circumstances.” Some would be buried hastily at night or in secret funerals, their graves zealously guarded from prying outsiders. Journalists investigating the deaths have reported being threatened with intimidation and attacks.

In cases that the Kremlin could not so easily ignore, the dead or injured have been hailed as “volunteers” who entered Ukraine on leave from the army — heroes who fought unofficially for the freedom of their Russian-speaking brethren.

VICE News travels to Russia to investigate the mysterious deaths of dozens — possibly hundreds — of active-duty Russian servicemen who are believed to have been killed in Ukraine. Accounts gathered from soldiers’ families, human rights workers, and government officials cast doubt on the Kremlin narrative, revealing the unacknowledged sacrifices borne by Russia’s ghost army.

Watch “The Death of Boris Nemtsov: Kremlin's Biggest Critic“ - http://bit.ly/17WhYLV

Read "'It Is a Government Crime': The Coffins of Russia's Ghost Soldiers in Ukraine Are Coming Home” - http://bit.ly/1aIUxax

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Meeting the Donbas Battalion: Russian The Kremlin's Secret War: Russia's 4 months ago   11:55

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With the Ukrainian army struggling to contain the grab for power by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in the Donetsk Oblast, armed pro-Ukrainian militias have been quietly taking matters into their own hands.

One of these groups, the Donbas Battalion, has been attacking DPR checkpoints and occupied buildings. After two weeks of careful negotiations they finally agreed for VICE News to visit their clandestine base in what used to be a children's summer camp in the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region. They were cautious about revealing their location as their last HQ was discovered and attacked by pro-Russia forces, forcing them to find an alternative.

We watched them train and interviewed their leader, Semyan, before being invited on an operation the following day. In the town of Velyka Novosilka, the Donbas Battalion tore down the DPR flag and replaced it with Ukraine's colors, reinstalled the pro-Ukrainian administrator, and lectured the local police on loyalty and duty — all at gunpoint. We then left Velyka Novosilka quickly, as there were reports of armed pro-Russia groups heading our way.

The Ukrainian army's "anti-terror" operation has so far failed to dislodge separatists from their strongholds in Sloviansk and Donetsk. But the flexibility of the Donbas Battalion, and other groups like it, could help turn the tide in Kiev's favor. Equally, they could help further destabilize an already volatile region. Yet with the Ukrainian presidential elections taking place on May 25, it's likely that Semyan and his men will be busy in the days ahead — and we'll soon find out.

Watch all of VICE News' coverage of the conflict in Ukraine here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw613M86o5o7DfgzuUCd_PVwbOCDO472B

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