The total number of military personnel from the Russian Armed Forces who are active in the separatist-held territories of Eastern Ukraine is currently 5-6 thousand, wrote journalist and military expert Yuriy Butusov on ZN.UA news website.
“Nominally assigned to the command posts, the local separatists carry out, in the best case, the functions of students and ‘advisers’, or are otherwise ‘talking heads’ for propaganda. Russian mercenaries are the linchpins in all the military subdivisions of the military groups. The total number of Russian military personnel in the Donbas is constant and is around 5-6 thousand people,” the analyst noted.
The author pointed out that the Donbas has become a training ground for the regular Russian army, and the leadership of the separatist armed forces is effectively made up of Russian officers.
“The subdivisions of the Russian Army are deployed here on a rotational basis. All systems of control, reconnaissance, artillery, radio-electronic warfare, and logistics – all of these are handled by Russian soldiers. The 1st and 2nd army corps of the occupation forces, on the levels from the battalion staff to the corps command are staffed by Russian officers with the status of ‘advisers’, who in actual fact have the powers of real commanders,” the article states.
Butusov also observed that the motorized rifle and armored divisions are frequently sent to the Donbas to carry out combat training tasks, including direct participation in military actions.
According to Pavlo Zhebrivskyi, Head of Donetsk Regional State Administration, there are as many as 4,000 Russian soldiers in the Donbas, without taking into account mercenaries, who fight for money.