As Russians are masters of propaganda, this is highly likely to be the case. During World War II, for example, the Russians put on Polish military uniforms and created a fifth column.
- Unidentified armed men seen on the streets of Donetsk in east Ukraine
- Russian diplomat claims 300 mercenaries had arrived in Kiev this week
- Mercenaries in the region could give Putin pretext for military action
- Donetsk has been the scene of big pro-Russian demonstrations this week
Speculation was growing last night that American mercenaries had been deployed to Donetsk after videos emerged of unidentified armed men in the streets of the eastern Ukrainian city.
At least two videos published on YouTube earlier this week show burly, heavily armed soldiers with no insignia in the city, which has been gripped by pro-Moscow protests.
In one of the videos onlookers can be heard shouting ‘Blackwater! Blackwater!’ as the armed men, who wear no insignia, jog through the streets.
Since the videos emerged, Twitter has been alive with speculation that mercenaries linked to Blackwater, now known as Academi, are active in Ukraine, helping to prop up the embattled new pro-western government.
And a Russian diplomat in Kiev told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that 300 employees of private security companies had arrived there.
‘These are soldiers of fortune proficient in combat operations. Most of them had operated under private contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other states,’ the source said. Interfax reported that the diplomat did not disclose the nationalities of the mercenaries but said, ‘Most of them come from the United States’.
Asked whether the soldiers seen in the videos could be from Academi, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, a security expert with the Institute for Policy Research & Development, said: ‘Difficult to say really. It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility – Academi have been deployed in all sorts of theatres.
‘I think the question is whether the evidence available warrants at least reasonable speculation.
‘On the face of it, the uniforms of the people in the videos are consistent with US mercs – they don’t look like Russian soldiers mercs. On the other hand, why run around in public making a show of it?’
He added: ‘Of course the other possibility is it’s all Russian propaganda.’