Russia has long dismissed Western allegations that its military has intervened in Ukraine as little more than computer-generated propaganda.
In an attempt to puncture the Russian denials, independent experts have operated like digital Sherlock Holmeses, using Google's Street View, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, satellite photographs and Russia's version of Facebook, including social media updates by Russian soldiers. That research was then supplemented by more traditional sources like court documents and local media reports, Censor.NET reports citing The New York Times.
"Independent researchers, using open sources and rigorous methodology, have demonstrated that Russian troops and Russian weapons have been an important part of the fight in Ukraine's east," said John E. Herbst, a former American ambassador to Ukraine and one of the authors of the report, Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine, which is to be released Thursday by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research center.
While the most recent photograph analyzed in the Atlantic Council report was taken in February, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary general, said in an interview in Washington on Wednesday that there was ample evidence that Russia still had forces in Ukraine and was sending arms to separatists there.