As Russia masses forces near Ukrainian border, Putin jacks up secrecy about troop fatalities

As Russia masses forces near Ukrainian border, Putin jacks up secrecy about troop fatalities
Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. (Image: Reuters, Maria Tsvetkova)

[Ed. – Report on massing of forces is here.  The report includes details about troops and equipment with identifying markings removed.  Taken together, these measures are not what you do to merely hold routine exercises.]

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree classifying certain peacetime deaths of soldiers as state secrets.

Putin signed an order Thursday making the deaths of Russian troops lost during “special operations” a secret, amending a previous decree that limited such secrecy to deaths of soldiers in wartime. Some watchers can see only one plausible reason for the change: Russia is gearing up for another military push into Ukraine.

“We’re in a pre­war situation. Right now there’s going to be another campaign in Ukraine,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst based in Moscow, who added that Russia was being secret about losses­ because “we’re fighting a secret war.” …

“If foreigners know about the losses­ of soldiers in Donbass, that’s not very good,” he said, using a term that refers to eastern Ukraine. “But more important is that the Russian public doesn’t know. So it’s going to be a secret, as it was in Soviet times.”

Russia has long denied its troops are operating in Ukraine, dismissing as fabrications reports of training camps, troop build­ups and even the testimony of captured Russian soldiers claiming to be on active duty.

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