The claim — quickly denied by Ukraine — is likely to further roil relations between Moscow and Kiev. Less than two weeks ago Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a letter to his Ukrainian counterpart complaining of an array of alleged insults and offenses.
The statement Monday by Russia's Prosecutor General's Investigative Committee said both Ukrainian troops and about 200 militants from the Ukrainian nationalist organization UNA-UNSO fought on the Georgian side in the August 2008 five-day war, during which Russian forces advanced deep into Georgia.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Konstantin Sadilov said no Ukrainian troops fought in the war, though he did not exclude that other Ukrainians not with the military may have taken part.
The deputy head of UNA-UNSO, however, also denied any involvement, saying: "Regrettably, UNA-UNSO squads and individual members of the organization did not take part in the Georgia-Russia war," according to the Interfax news agency.
The Russian committee statement said evidence of the Ukrainians' participation was found in the process of gathering evidence for filing genocide charges. Russia contends that Georgia's barrage of the capital of separatist South Ossetia at the outset of the war constituted genocide; the city was populated mostly by ethnic Ossetians.
Although there appears to be little support from outside Russia for a genocide case, Moscow's determination to pursue it underlines the Kremlin's deep resentment of the Georgian government. Linking Ukrainian troops to genocide, even tangentially, could give Moscow additional justification for pressuring and denouncing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
Russia seethes at Yushchenko's push to obtain EU and NATO membership for Ukraine. The Kremlin also still bears a grudge against him for the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that ushered him into office after a fraudulent election purportedly won by the Kremlin-backed candidate.
Ukraine holds a new presidential election in January, and Yushchenko is seen as almost certain to lose due to his inability to contain domestic political turmoil.
Analysts viewed Medevdev's letter as a transparent attempt to undercut Yushchenko's re-election possibilities. Medvedev accused Yushchenko of undermining the Russian Orthodox Church by supporting a splinter church in Ukraine, and of trying to damage European energy security. Much of the Russian gas sold to Europe transits Ukraine
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