400 US mercenaries ‘deployed on ground’ in Ukraine military op

Ukrainian troops outside the town of Andreyevskoe near Slaviyansk, Donetsk Region, where local residents blocked a column of Ukrainian Army armored personnel carriers. (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

Ukrainian troops outside the town of Andreyevskoe near Slaviyansk, Donetsk Region, where local residents blocked a column of Ukrainian Army armored personnel carriers. (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

About 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious US private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country, German media reports.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper, citing a source in intelligence circles, wrote Sunday that Academi employees are involved in the Kiev military crackdown on pro-autonomy activists in near the town of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region.

On April 29, German Intelligence Service (BND) informed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government about the mercenaries’ participation in the operation, the paper said, RIA Novosti reported. It is not clear who commands the private military contractors and pays for their services, however.

In March, media reports appeared suggesting that the coup-imposed government in Kiev could have employed up to 300 mercenaries.That was before the new government launched a military operation against anti-Maidan activists, or “terrorists” as Kiev put it, in southeast Ukraine.

At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry said then that reports claiming Kiev was planning to involve “involve staff from foreign military companies to ‘ensure the rule of law,’” could suggest that it wanted “to suppress civil protests and dissatisfaction.”

In particular, Greystone Limited, which is currently registered in Barbados and is a part of Academi Corporation, is a candidate for such a gendarme role. It is a similar and probably an affiliated structure of the Blackwater private army, whose staff have been accused of cruel and systematic violations of human rights in various trouble spots on many occasions.

“Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the Barbados-registered company Greystone Limited, which is integrated with the Academi corporation,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is an analogue, and, probably and affiliated body of the Blackwater private army, whose employees have repeatedly been accused of committing grievous and systematic human rights abuses in different troubled regions.”

Allegations increased further after unverified videos appeared on YouTube of unidentified armed men in the streets of Donetsk, the capital of the country’s industrial and coalmining region. In those videos, onlookers can be heard shouting “Mercenaries!”“Blackwater!,” and “Who are you going to shoot at?”

(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Academi denied its involvement in Ukraine, claiming on its website that “rumors” were posted by “some irresponsible bloggers and online reporters.”

“Such unfounded statements combined with the lack of factual reporting to support them and the lack of context about the company, are nothing more than sensationalistic efforts to create hysteria and headlines in times of genuine crisis,” the US firm stated.

The American security company Blackwater gained worldwide notoriety for the substantial role it played in the Iraq war as a contractor for the US government. In recent years it has changed its name twice – in 2009 it was renamed Xe Services and in 2011 it got its current name, Academi.

The firm became infamous for the alleged September 16, 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. The attack, which saw 20 others wounded, was allegedly without justification and in violation of deadly-force rules that pertained to American security contractors in Iraq at the time. Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security guards were involved in at least 195 shooting incidents in Iraq and fired first in 163 of those cases, a Congressional report said at the time.

Russia at the gates? US State Dept, Pentagon grilled over NATO expansion

‘You’re moving closer to Russia and blame Russians for being close to NATO’

 

 

 

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby have been challenged over the Department of Defense’s claims that the US must “deal” with “modern and capable” Russian armed forces on NATO’s doorstep.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu expressed “grave concern” and “surprise” at a Wednesday speech made by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference. Hagel declared that US armed forces “must deal with a revisionist Russia – with its modern and capable army – on NATO’s doorstep.”

Kirby was confronted by AP journalist Matt Lee over NATO expansion closer to the Russian borders at the State Department’s daily press briefing on Thursday. Here is their exchange:

Matt Lee, AP journalist: What did he [Chuck Hagel] mean by “revisionist Russia?”

John Kirby: Pentagon Press Secretary: I think what he was referring to there is that there appears to be in their intentions and their motives, a calling back to the “glory days of the Soviet Union”.

L: He also used the phrase that its army – he means Russian army is on NATO’s doorstep. Why is that? Is it not logical to look at this and say – the reason why Russia’s army is at NATO’s doorstep, is because NATO has expanded, rather than Russian expanding? In other words, NATO has moved closer to Russia rather than Russia moving closer to NATO.

K: I think that’s the way President [Vladimir] Putin probably looks at it – it is certainly not the way we look at it.

L: You don’t think that NATO has expanded eastward towards Russia?

K: NATO has expanded…

L: So the reason that the Russian army is at NATO’s doorstep is not the fault of the Russian army, not the Russian army that’s done it, it’s NATO that moved closer east.
K: It wasn’t NATO that was ordering tons of tactical battalions and army to the Ukraine border…

L: I am pretty sure that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, unless that’s changed…?

K: NATO is not an anti-Russia alliance; it is a security alliance….

L: For 50 years it was an anti-Soviet alliance. How can you not even see how the Russians perceive it as a threat, the fact that it keeps getting closer to their border.

K: I can tell that NATO is a defense alliance…

L: But it moved east. Correct?

K: It expanded but there is no reason to believe that the expansion is a hostile and threatening move.

L: You are moving closer to Russia and you’re blaming the Russians for being close to NATO.

K: We are blaming the Russians for violating the integral territory of Ukraine and destabilizing the security situation inside Europe.

L: Which is NOT in NATO…

Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US Department of State: Other countries feel threatened, let’s move on!

 In terms of new threats at NATO’s borders, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Friday that it is the US which has been “stubbornly approaching…closer to our doors.”

Relations between Russia and NATO have been tense since the alliance accused Russia of becoming involved in the Ukrainian conflict – a claim Russia has continuously and consistently denied.

Following Crimea’s accession to Russia in March, the US and Europe bombarded Moscow with sanctions. NATO also significantly increased its military presence near Russia’s borders, especially in Poland and the former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which have expressed concern at the potential for Russian incursions into their territories.

Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov: No haste in MH17 tragedy probe, despite media hype

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)

 

RT news

The report on the Malaysian jet crash is very “calm” and doesn’t provide much information about the tragedy, said Russian FM Sergey Lavrov. He added that despite all the hype around the crash, the investigators do not seem to be in a hurry.

In a Saturday interview to Russian channel TV-Center, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed he was disappointed by the latest report from Dutch experts on the reasons of Malaysia airplane crash. Malaysian airplane with 298 people on board crashed in Donetsk region July 17. Many western media outlets started accusing Russia without providing any evidence.

MH17 broke up in mid-air due to external damage – Dutch preliminary report

However, despite the political tensions, the report provided by the Dutch Safety Board from September 9 is “calm” while the investigators are taking their time with the probe.

“There are no demands that experts resume their work at the crash site,” Lavrov said. “There were also no attempts to go there to collect, as they say, the wreckage and to see how the whole plane looked like. Nobody spoke about it out loud.”

At the same time, the only side who is the moment seems actively interested in going to the site of the crash is Malaysia, whose Defense Minister is planning a soon visit.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply )

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply )

The Dutch report said that the MH17 crash was the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside.

“Flight MH17 with a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside,” the Dutch Safety Board said in its preliminary report.

“I hope that we will learn the truth, but it doesn’t depend on me,” Lavrov said, dismissing the accusations that traces of a Russian BUK missile system were detected at the crash site.

“There were many ‘fiction stories’ about BUK missiles,” said Lavrov. “But that very myth was debunked. This BUK was shown on the territory controlled by Kiev troops. There were many other far-fetched theories, some of them outright lies.”

The international experts have spent at least three weeks in Kiev and talked to Ukrainian authorities, but nobody cared to answer the questions posed by the Russian side, Russian FM added.

Lavrov said Moscow is readying one more set of questions, this time coming from Russian Air agencies, on the crash. A number of important steps required in such a probe have not been taken, he added.

“I don’t know why those things have not been done. Maybe someone is comfortable with the situation when right after the tragedy there were hysteric accusations towards the irregular forces in eastern Ukraine and Russia,” he concluded. “And now when the ‘propagandist cream’ has got removed, maybe those people do not really want to investigate the plane crash.”

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.(Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.(Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin)

US seeking maximal escalation in E. Ukraine

Russia is concerned with calls coming from the new Ukrainian leadership to abandon its neutral status and join NATO. Such a course in particular was proclaimed by the country’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on August 29.

“I think he is acting not in the interest of his own people but of those who wanted to put an argument Russian and Ukrainian nations and drive a wedge between Russian and Europe,” Lavrov said.

According to Lavrov, Washington also wants to “get engaged” in the crisis.

ukraineArmy2

Ukrainian soldiers stand at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian town of Pervomaysk September 12, 2014.(Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

“The actions of almost all Ukrainian radicals and extremists, including the radicals in the leading positions, get carte blanche from the USA,” the minister said. “Washington has repeatedly showed that its goal is to aggravate the crisis at a maximal level and use Ukraine as a bargaining chip to isolate and weaken Russia.”

The calls urging to look at what’s happening objectively and step for national dialogue, reconciliation and respect of the minorities’ rights – the values West promotes in any other conflict – don’t work, Lavrov added.

According to Lavrov, “there are many ‘provocateurs’ in Ukraine’s leadership, but western authorities do nothing to “curb the radicals.”

Thus, Russia prefers to work with those who represent the Ukrainian president.

“The Russian president repeatedly said that he is satisfied how his direct contact with [Petro] Poroshenko started,” he said.