Little green men (Russian: зелёные человечки, Ukrainian: зелені чоловічки), also known as Polite People (Russian: вежливые люди, Ukrainian: ввічливі люди), refers to masked soldiers in unmarked green army uniforms and carrying modern Russian military weapons and equipment that appeared during the Ukrainian crisis of 2014. The term was first used during the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, when those soldiers occupied and blockaded the Simferopol International Airport, most military bases in Crimea, and the parliament in Simferopol.
In April 2015, retired Russian Admiral Igor Kasatonov (Игорь Касатонов) said that the "little green men" were members of Russian Spetsnaz special forces units. According to his information, Russian troop deployment in Crimea included six helicopter landings and three landings of Il-76 with 500 people.
On 17 December 2015 Russian president Putin confirmed the presence of [Russian] people in Ukraine who were engaged in certain tasks, including in the military sphere, and added that this did not mean the presence of regular Russian army [in Ukraine].
Weapons and equipment analysis
In March 2014 the Finnish magazine Suomen Sotilas (Soldier of Finland) published an analysis of the weapons and equipment seen on photos of "polite people".
The article points to a number of weapons and pieces of equipment that it asserts are issued only to armed forces in the Russian Federation:
- New EMR camouflage combat uniforms
- New 6Sh112 tactical vest
- New 6B27, 6B7-1M composite helmet
- New 7.62 mm PKP machine guns
- 6B26 composite helmets (used only by airborne troops of the Russian Federation)
- 6Sh92-5 tactical vest (used only by airborne troops of the Russian Federation)
- Gorka-3 combat uniform (used only by Russian special forces and mountain troops)
- Smersh AK/VOG tactical vest (used only by Russian special forces)
The article goes on to conclude that with a very high probability "these troops are the 45th Guards Separate Reconnaissance Regiment of VDV" based in Kubinka, Moscow.
Unidentified gunmen on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. The AK-74 carried by the rifleman on the right does not have a magazine inserted.
Official Russian reaction
Initially, President of Russia Vladimir Putin stated that the men in green were not part of Russian Armed Forces, but groups of local militia who had seized their weapons from the Ukrainian Army. The SACEUR of NATO Allied Command Operations General Philip Breedlove said that these "green men" were in fact Russian troops.
In March 2014 Putin continued to maintain that there was no pre-planned intervention, but that "the heavily armed, tightly coordinated groups who took over Crimea's airports and ports at the start of the incursion – they were merely spontaneous 'self-defence groups' who may have acquired their Russian-looking uniforms from local [military] shops (voyentorg)". According to the Ukrainian Gun Owners Association, Ukrainian law does not allow the selling or carrying of firearms other than for hunting.
On 17 April President Putin admitted for the first time publicly that Russian special forces were involved in the events of Crimea, for the purposes of protecting local people and creating conditions for a referendum. Later he admitted that Russian Armed Forces had blocked Ukrainian Armed Forces in Crimea during the events.
In answer to the question of the presence of Russian troops in Crimea, Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu said, "Regarding the statements about use of Russian special forces in Ukrainian events, I can only say one thing – it's hard to search for a black cat in a dark room, especially if it's not there," and added cryptically that searching for the cat would be "stupid" if the cat is "intelligent, brave, and polite", from whence the expression "polite men" originated.
Reappearance in Donbass
Further information: Russian military intervention in Ukraine (2014–present)
During the War in Donbass a Reuters correspondent reported from a settlement of Kolosky in Donetsk Oblast on 26 August 2014 that dozens of heavily-armed strangers with Russian accents had appeared at the weekend and set up a road block (about 10 kilometres from the Russian border). The men had white arm bands, the same identifying mark that was worn by 10 men captured a few kilometers (miles) away by Ukrainian forces and who, in a video released on Tuesday (26 August 2014), said they were Russian paratroopers. A report by the BBC referred to the unmarked Russian forces in the Donbass as a "Ghost Army".
On 13 January 2015 Ukrainian news outlet censor.net reported Russian special forces in Luhansk along with footage of eight unmarked soldiers in green army uniforms patrolling a street there with several of them carrying an AS Val, a weapon exclusive to the Russian Armed Forces.
Main article: International reactions to the war in Donbass