Some of the "green men" photographed in eastern Ukraine have been identified as Russian soldiers seen in other locations, The New York Times reports.
The White House has concurred with Ukrainian officials that some of the soldiers wearing green uniforms sans an insignia – known as green men – seizing government buildings in the eastern portion of the country are in fact Russian forces, according to The New York Times.
"There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine, and the photos presented by the Ukrainians last week only further confirm this, which is why U.S. officials have continued to make that case," Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insists the green men are not Russian, even though the soldiers look just like the Russian military and intelligence forces that seized Crimea in February, according to the Times.
"There are no Russian units in eastern Ukraine — no special services, no tactical advisers. All this is being done by the local residents," Putin said last week.
But his denials are eerily similar to those he made in early March about the green troops in Crimea, The Washington Post
reported last week.
"Anyone could buy those uniforms," he said, before doing an about-face, admitting the green men in Crimea were Russian. He defended their presence, saying they were needed to keep order while the Crimeans decided their future in a referendum, according to the Post.
At least one of the green men has been identified by Ukrainian state security as longtime Russian military intelligence operative Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, according to the Times. He was involved in the Crimea invasion and has been seen in Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine.
During an annual address on Russian television last week, according to the Post, Putin asserted that the Russian parliament had given authority to send troops into Ukraine, and he reminded the audience that southeastern Ukraine had once been part of the Russian empire before being turned over to Ukraine in 1954.
"Why?" Putin rhetorically asked. "Let God judge them."
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