by Henry Hullah
NATO satellites, journalists on the ground and Ukrainian officials have all reported Russian troops in Ukrainian territory, but how much longer can Russia claim it has no military presence in Eastern Ukraine?
"Russia will say that until it really has some forces on the ground. As at this point, definitely we don’t have any." answered Russian Member of Parliament Vyacheslav Nikonov.
He told Michael Holmes, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, that the Russian government had not been providing weapons, such as T-72 tanks which the MP insisted came from Hungary, to separatists and also had nothing to do with the current state of Ukraine.
"It is a completely domestic Ukrainian mess and people living there, in the eastern part of Ukraine, are mostly Russian. So I think it’s very understandable why Russia emotionally is there. Though Russian troops are definitely not there."
With high stakes and emotional investment in the dire situation of those in the Eastern Ukraine, the program asked what is the Russian Endgame here, do they want, as some believe, a land bridge to Crimea?
"The end game for Russia is of course a peaceful Ukraine, and Russian national security."
"In case of the Crimea, it was an immediate reaction of the people of the Crimea for reunification with their mother country, with Russia. "
"Crimeans never had any Ukrainian identity whatsoever. The people in Donetsk and Luhansk have maybe a little bit stronger Ukrainian identity, but it would be very hard for Kiev to convince them that they should stay inside Ukraine."
'Russia will not show up for this war.'
Nikonov was adamant that the accusations of a Russian intrusion into Ukraine came from people who had one goal:
"There are many people in America or in Ukraine who would like Russia to intervene and to have a big Russia-Ukraine war. But Russia will not show up for that war."
If Russia was genuine in its aspirations not to be involved militarily in the current crisis, then what is the next step for the country that has received international condemnation for its actions during the crisis.
"The only solution for that conflict is for the government in Kiev to sit down with the governments of the republics, of the Novorossiya, as they call themself now, and negotiate a solution, whatever that might be. Putin is really pressing hard on the republics to negotiate with Kiev," the Russian MP told the program.
"Russia will not be a broker in this situation. There are Europeans who are involved in the dialogue. I think Americans should also get involved, because of course without American position, Kiev’s position cannot be changed."