RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned today that “foreigners speaking English” were among government troops battling against pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
And he was backed up by chief of the Russian general staff General Valery Gerasimov, who told a Moscow security conference that mercenaries were operating on Kiev’s behalf in the conflict.
“There is evidence of private military firms participating in the events in Ukraine,” he said.
He provided no details, but the Interfax news agency quoted an anonymous source in the general staff as saying: “According to our information, dozens of foreign mercenaries, including Americans, are taking part in military operations on the side of the Kiev authorities.”
Mr Lavrov warned that Western powers needed to learn the lessons from the Ukraine crisis.
“If the goal is to prevent such crises from repeating in the future, the right lesson must be learned from events in Ukraine,” Mr Lavrov told the Moscow conference.
The Ukraine crisis was “the logical result of the evolution of the situation in Europe in the last 25 years,” he said.
But, “instead of seizing a historic chance to build a greater Europe without dividing lines, our Western partners have preferred their usual logic aimed at extending the geopolitical space under their control to the east,” he said, calling this a “softer form of the Russian containment policy” of the cold war.
General Gerasimov warned that Moscow would retaliate against any increased Nato activity near its borders.
Since Russia annexed Crimea, Nato has deployed additional ships and planes to the region and military exercises in the region have been stepped up.
“Nato military groupings in the Baltic states, Poland and Romania are being built up, as well as the military presence of the bloc in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Sea,” said General Gerasimov.
“The intensity, the operational and combat readiness of the alliance’s troops is being increased near the Russian border.
"In these circumstances … we have to take retaliatory measures.”
Meanwhile, armed pro-Russian separatists ambushed a convoy of Ukrainian rightwing militia fighters near Donetsk and at least five people were killed in fighting.