President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Wednesday said reports that several paratroopers from Pskov died while fighting in Ukraine should be checked, providing the first official reaction to rampant speculation about the circumstances in which the men died.
"Without a doubt, this information probably is being investigated by the relevant agencies. But, at the same time, the information requires a detailed check before we can draw any conclusions," Dmitry Peskov was cited by Interfax news agency as telling journalists late Wednesday.
When asked whether such a check was currently under way, Peskov said "I don't know for certain, that's why I can't say."
The comments come amid a flurry of reports that claim to prove Russian troops are present on Ukrainian territory. No official statement has been released on the paratroopers' cause of death, though some journalists have touted the incident as proof of Russia's military involvement in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have said the paratroopers were killed while fighting Ukrainian troops in Luhansk last week, though Russia's Defense Ministry has denied this and maintained that no Russian troops have been sent to Ukraine.
On Wednesday, several journalists were reportedly threatened and attacked while in Pskov to investigate the matter and visit the alleged burial site of two of the Russian men.
Vladimir Romensky from the independent Dozhd television channel and Ilya Vasyunin from the Russkaya Planeta news site said they were attacked by unknown men after trying to speak to relatives of the paratroopers.
The men told them to "head to the train station and take the first train back to Moscow," Romensky said.