Two reports by independent researchers have reached the same conclusion: Russian troops and military equipment are present in eastern Ukraine despite President Vladimir Putin’s and Russian officials’ claims that there is no Russian military involvement there.

Using publicly available information and social media postings, the Atlantic Council’s report, Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine, shows the movement of Russian soldiers and equipment across the Russian border and into Ukraine.

The second report, Putin. War, released for the first time in English, details Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the deployment of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. The report is based on evidence gathered by Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in Moscow on February 27.

Both reports were officially released at a May 28 event at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Damon Wilson, an Atlantic Council executive and co-author of the report, said: “There would be no conflict in Ukraine today but for Putin’s strategy to provoke one. … We don’t have a Ukraine problem, we have a Putin problem.”

One example in the Atlantic Council report juxtaposes two Google Earth satellite images taken a year apart showing the establishment of Russian camps with military vehicles and equipment along Russia’s border with Ukraine. The images are coupled with accounts by Russian soldiers taken from social media as evidence that the camps are “launching points” for Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine.

John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and director of the Atlantic Council, cited two reasons why Putin wants to keep Russia’s role in Ukraine a secret: “He’s playing both to Western weakness and the strong feelings of his own people against war in Ukraine.”

Authors of the reports hope the truth will encourage policymakers to extend sanctions against Russia.

“The ongoing war in Ukraine’s east is not just about Ukraine,” said Frederick Kempe, president of the Atlantic Council. “It’s about the global order, it’s about the future of Europe whole and free, and it’s about the future of Russia itself.”

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