Sergeant Leonid Kichatkin of the Russian 76th Airborne Division and Russian soldier Anton Tumanov died in August 2014 while fighting in eastern Ukraine. Their deaths amply demonstrate that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine is false.
Russia is sending soldiers across the border to reinforce Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine. Once in eastern Ukraine, these soldiers are no longer considered Russian; they are told to refer to themselves as local defense forces, aiding the separatists with additional manpower and equipment.
Russian authorities went to great lengths to cover up Kichatkin’s death. Kichatkin lived with his wife, Oksana, and children in Pskov, Russia, where he was stationed. In late July 2014, Ukraine was close to defeating the separatist forces as it retook territory, but the separatists were suddenly reinvigorated. Kichatkin’s unit was ordered into Ukraine, and it quickly stopped the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Between August 15 and 17, 2014, dozens of 76th Airborne soldiers stopped contacting their loved ones. That was around the time of a number of mysterious events surrounding this division, including reports of a fierce battle involving the paratroopers near the Ukrainian town of Georgievka and Putin commending them for the “successful completion of military missions.”
Kichatkin’s wife announced his death on his VKontakte page on August 22, 2014. Despite the official claim that all of the Pskov paratroopers were alive, secret funerals were held for them starting two days later. Kichatkin’s took place on August 25.