- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nearly 9,000 Russian troops and intelligence agents remain inside Ukraine despite the Kremlin’s denials, two top Ukrainian officials said on a visit to Washington Wednesday, adding they have shared their findings with the Obama White House.

There are roughly 8,960 Russian troops in Ukraine as well as 54 combined Russian training camps in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to Vitaliy Naida, head of the Department of Security Service of Ukraine, during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“The threat of a full-scale invasion is still there,” he said.

Russia and Ukraine have been in a war of words as the Kiev government continues to battle entrenched pro-Russian separatist forces in the country’s east. President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have denied the country’s troops are taking part in the clashes.

But Mr. Naida cited what he said were dozens of cases of Russian terrorism and secret intelligence service activity across the border, including a Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down last summer in the eastern part of the country by suspected Russian-backed separatists, killing all 298 people on board.

While the Ukrainian government has repeatedly tried to prove to European and American allies that Russia is dismissing international borderlines, it believes it has a tougher task at hand.

“We are not concerned about infiltration. We are concerned about terrorism,” said Andriy Taranov, Ukraine’s deputy head of administration.

Approximately 6,300 Ukrainian civilians and soldiers have died in the conflict, U.S. United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power told a House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. She believes the real number is much higher because the separatists in Ukraine do not allow access to international observers.

Vice President Joseph Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko over the phone last week to discuss continuing U.S. aid and defense support.

Mr. Taranov thanked the U.S. and Canada for their support so far in fighting Russia, which he claimed helped boost Ukraine’s army from about 6,000 troops in April 2014 to a fully functioning army a year later.

“We expect that weapons and assistance will help us to save lives,” he said.

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