Russian Agents Are Storming Ukraine's Buildings, It Seems — Obviously, Putin Calls This 'Nonsense'

Every day, it looks more like Russia is behind the recent uprisings in eastern Ukraine cities. Now, photos of the armed men storming Ukrainian government buildings have been linked to members of Russian intelligence and military agencies. The U.S. is supporting Ukraine's contention that the uprisings are being stoked not by mere pro-Russian demonstrators but by these secret Russian government envoys, The New York Times reported Monday.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the protests that have paralyzed parts of Ukraine in the wake of Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula earlier this year. Putin called rumors of Russia's involvement "nonsense" last week. But photos of the professional-looking "green men" strangely outfitted with fancy equipment tell a different story.

One member of Russia's Special Forces photographed in Georgia in 2008 looks a lot like a "protestor" spotted in the Ukrainian cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk this year, according to pictures provided to the Times. Another photo shows that three people spotted in those towns look like men in a group photo of a Russian reconnaissance unit.

Photos of the "green men" on Twitter show men in black masks and specialized equipment. Some of that equipment, including certain helmets, matches that in use by Russian special forces, according to the Times comparison.

In a blog post, General Philip Breedlove, a NATO military commander, wrote that it was ridiculous to assume the highly trained and outfitted men weren't Russian agents (also, NATO blogs now?).

It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities. It’s hard to fathom because it’s simply not true. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.

Uh-oh. Those are fighting words.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Monday to reassert U.S. support for Ukraine. The Obama administration is preparing to announce a troop shift that will bring more American soldiers to eastern Europe.