MOSCOW, May 15 (RIA Novosti) – A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council has denied German media reports that claim hundreds of well-trained US mercenaries are involved in the Ukraine conflict, the LifeNews agency reported.
The news came after the German newspapers Bild am Sonntag and Der Spiegel said last week some 400 elite commandos from the notorious military firm Academi, previously known as Blackwater, were taking part in the “anti-terror” operation mounted by the self-styled Ukrainian interim government against its own people in the country’s east and south.
According to Bild am Sonntag, Academi troops participated in the regime’s punitive operation near the restive city of Slaviansk, one of the strongholds of anti-coup activists in the Donetsk region.
It also claimed the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) was informed about the American involvement in the crisis by US officials and on April 29 shared the information with the Merkel administration, in particular with the Head of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier, who was present at a series of intelligence consultations.
Following reports on its secret presence in Ukraine, US National Security Council spokeswoman Laura Magnuson cited the military firm’s official denial published on its webpage on March 17. In its statement, Academi blamed some “irresponsible bloggers and an online reporter” for posting “rumors” that its employees are present in Ukraine.
“They are not and Academi has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince,” the statement emphasized.
The message acknowledged that Prince formerly owned the company, but vowed that its new management had made “tremendous efforts to build a responsible, transparent company ethos.”
Blackwater was renamed to Academi in 2010 after its mercenaries were implicated in a brutal shooting of Iraqi civilians in a helicopter incident during the US campaign in Iraq. It was also accused of smuggling arms and other crimes.
According to Der Spiegel, many Blackwater employees were tried in the United States for murdering Iraqis, while the private security firm ransomed itself with a fine worth millions of dollars.
In April, the Russian Foreign Ministry also reported that some 150 US commandos from Greystone, a private military contracting firm, had been deployed to Ukraine to help authorities suppress protest movement in the country’s east.
Greystone was quick to refute the accusation, claiming that although it “has the ability to deploy world-class security staff and trainers anywhere in the world,” it “does not currently, nor do we have any plans to, send personnel to the Ukraine.”
The news came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed in an English-language interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday that Moscow had received further indications of a US military presence in Ukraine.
“The reports about the foreign mercenaries involvement in this operation once again raises a grave issue of external interference in Ukrainian affairs and the role of the West in provoking this situation instead of sending the necessary limiting signals to the Kiev authorities, instead of encouraging them to rein in all those unbridled extremists and radical nationalists,” Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, recently told RIA Novosti.