Washington: Photographs taken in eastern Ukraine suggest that some of the masked armed pro-Kremlin separatists are really Russian soldiers and intelligence operatives, the New York Times reported on Monday.
Citing Ukrainian sources and photos and descriptions "endorsed by the Obama administration", the newspaper reported that some men have been identified in photos of Russian troops taken in other settings.
The paper included pictures of operatives taken in Georgia in 2008 and earlier this year in Crimea, and compared them to the men in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk.
According to The New York Times, Ukrainian state security has even identified one of the photographed masked men by name as a Russian intelligence operative.
Moscow has strenuously denied that its operatives are active in the region.
The report comes after a deadly shootout in Slavyansk on Sunday that threatens to undermine an agreement hammered out Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union in Geneva to defuse the crisis.
Pro-Kremlin militants have seized control of nearly a dozen towns, including Slavyansk, and are calling on Russian forces to annex the region.
Washington and Western powers believe that Russia is behind the provocations, and that they staged the shootout to generate an excuse to invade.