Russia has allegedly deployed mobile crematoriums near eastern Ukraine to incinerate the bodies of its soldiers who die fighting in order to hide evidence of its involvement in the conflict, U.S. lawmakers told Bloomberg.
"The Russians are trying to hide their casualties by taking mobile crematoriums with them," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry told Bloomberg. "They are trying to hide not only from the world but from the Russian people their involvement."
Thornberry based his allegations on classified evidence received from both U.S. and Ukrainian sources. Thornberry and Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, traveled to Ukraine in late March.
"What we have heard from the Ukrainians, they are largely supported by U.S. intelligence and others," Thornberry said.
Back in January, Ukrainian security chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said the special Kamaz mobile crematoriums burn about eight to 10 bodies per day and are coordinated directly by Russian military intelligence. He said seven truck-mounted crematoriums crossed into Ukraine over a four day period. This leaked video appears to show a mobile crematorium in action:
Cremating soldiers close to the battlefield apparently costs less than shipping the corpses back home and also reduces the chances of being caught transporting large numbers of dead soldiers who aren't supposed to be in the area in the first place.
Moscow adamantly denies any involvement in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels, while most officials in Washington and Ukraine insist Russia is sending soldiers and weapons to support the rebels.
Numerous Russian soldiers have been captured in the area of eastern Ukraine. Nine soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces back in August identified themselves as members of Russia's airborne division, while one of two Russian servicemen captured earlier this month admitted they were part of a Russian special forces spying mission and said they feel "abandoned" by Moscow, according to the Moscow Times.
Putin admitted that that Russian soldiers had been caught in Ukraine, but said they were border patrol agents that had accidentally crossed the border, comparing the crossing to the Ukrainian soldiers who have crossed the border to evade capture by rebel forces, reported the Guardian. Other Russian soldiers are likely fighting in the area on their own volition rather than on behalf of Moscow, Putin said.