Western specialists operate Kiev’s air defenses and rocket systems, Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy claims FILE PHOTO Patriot air defense system © Getty Images / Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images

NATO soldiers are fighting against the Russian Army in the Ukraine conflict disguised as mercenaries, a senior Russian defense official has claimed, days after Moscow dealt a major blow to Kiev with the capture of the key Donbass city of city Avdeevka.

Ukraine’s shelling of Russian civilians – a significant part of which was carried out from Avdeevka in the years prior – is happening at Kiev’s behest and with the tacit consent of Western states, the deputy head of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, told Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Monday.

The US and its allies pump Ukraine full of weapons and provide it with communications services and intelligence information, but some of the equipment requires qualified Western personnel on the ground, the official said.

“NATO soldiers disguised as mercenaries participate in the military operations. They control air defense systems, operational-tactical missiles and multiple launch rocket systems, and enter into assault detachments,” Rudskoy said.

NATO officers directly prepare military operations for the Ukrainian armed forces.

In mid-January, the Russian MOD announced it had killed over 60 foreign fighters in a precision strike, of which the majority were French speakers. Although France subsequently denied that any of their armed forces were in Ukraine, the French defense minister acknowledged that some French nationals went to fight as “volunteers” – and claimed that as a “democracy,” Paris can’t stop them from doing so.

According to the Russian MOD’s estimates, more than 5,900 foreign mercenaries have died in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict in February 2022. The Ukrainian Army suffered almost 160,000 casualties over the course of its disastrous counteroffensive last year alone, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Kiev suffered colossal losses, failing to pierce Russia’s tactical defense zone, while the Russian Army learned and tested novel ways of warfare, Rudskoy said, adding that following the capture of Avdeevka, the Russian troops are improving their positions along the entire line of contact. (RT)