US Mercenaries in Ukraine as National Guard Shoots at Voters to Disrupt Referendum
May 15, 2014
In Serbia Independent News & RT News & Associated Press
About 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious US private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in the Ukrainian military operation. Armed men identified as Ukrainian national guard opened fire Sunday on a crowd outside a town hall in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to shut down voting in a referendum on sovereignty for the region.
German Media: 400 US Mercenaries
‘Deployed on Ground’ in Ukraine
In Serbia Independent News
(May 11, 2014) -- 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. 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.
Kiev's Troops Roll through Eastern Ukraine
In 'Bid to Disrupt Voting' -- Self-Defense Forces
(May 11, 2014) -- A town in the Lugansk region has come under attack by Kiev's APCs, while in the Donetsk region Ukrainian troops have seized four polling stations, self-defense forces claim. This comes as autonomy referendums kick off in the country's southeast.
"Around 15 APCs have come near Novoaydar," Aleksey Chmilenko said. "Our self-defense guards are trying to stop the attack and prevent the vehicles moving farther in the direction of Lugansk."
Novoaydar election commission was reportedly evacuated by self-defense activists, after it had been attacked by National Guard troops.
At the same time, representatives of another Lugansk region self-defense group, based in Krasny Luch, told RT that they have seen APCs in the region, but have not heard any fighting yet.
Reports of sightings of Ukrainian APCs in various towns and villages in Lugansk region have been coming in throughout the day. One report said that as many as 45 APCs and two helicopters were moving from the Kharkov region in the direction of Lugansk.
On Sunday, Donetsk and Lugansk regions opened polling stations for a referendum seeking autonomy from the central government. Local self-defense forces boosted security, fearing that Kiev could stage provocations to disrupt the self-determination vote.
Voting in four towns across Lugansk region has already been disrupted, as military vehicles block passage to polling stations, representatives of referendum coordination council told Interfax.
"In four districts -- Belokurakinsky, Svatovsky, Troitsky and Melovsky -- APCs of the Ukrainian National Guard do not let residents pass to the referendum polling stations," the sources said.
Kiev's armed forces also entered the town of Krasnoarmeysk in the Donetsk region and seized four school buildings where residents were voting in the referendum, Denis Pushilin, co-chairman of the Donetsk People's Republic, told Itar-Tass.
All the people in the election district were evacuated, he said, adding that all voting bulletins were saved and taken away by the electoral commission. Voting was also stopped.
"They threatened us and said that they were sent by the Kiev authorities," Sergey, a local resident, told RT. He added that there were no casualties.
Earlier in the day, shooting and artillery fire was heard on the outskirts of Slavyansk, in southeast Ukraine's Donetsk region, RIA Novosti reported, citing its correspondent in the area.
There have also been reports of a military operation going on in the town of Krasny Liman. Those emerged after communication was lost with two territorial self-determination referendum committees there, according to the head of the Central Election Commission of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," Roman Lyagin.
About 1,500 residents of Barannikovo in Kremensky district of the Lugansk region are attempting to prevent Ukraine's National Guard's tanks and armored vehicles from entering their village, according to local self-defense.
"I am hearing gunshots through the phone. I know that two people have been wounded," Vasiliy Nikitin, the head of the press service for Lugansk People's Republic referendum on independence told Interfax on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the acting head of Ukraine's presidential administration, Sergey Pashinsky, said Kiev's military operation in the Donetsk region towns of Krasny Liman, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk was in its its final stage, adding that "a lot of separatists have been eliminated during the operation." He would not provide any figures thought.
During the military crackdown, the self-defence checkpoints near Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Krasny Liman were destroyed, Ukraine's Interior Ministry said, adding that there were no casualties among civilians. There is no information yet about the number of victims from the self-defense forces.
Ukraine Guardsmen Open Fire on Crowd
KRASNOARMEISK, Ukraine (May 11, 2014) -- Armed men identified as Ukrainian national guard opened fire Sunday on a crowd outside a town hall in eastern Ukraine, and an official for the region's insurgents said there were fatalities.
The bloodshed in the town of Krasnoarmeisk occurred hours after dozens of armed men shut down voting in a referendum on sovereignty for the region. One of them identified the group as being national guardsmen.
An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting said two people were seen lying unmoving on the ground and insurgent leader Denis Pushilin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying there were an unspecified number of deaths.
Several hours earlier, the men came to the town about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the regional capital, Donetsk, and dispersed referendum voting that was taking place outside the town hall and they took control of the building. In the evening, more arrived in a van and a scuffle broke out with people who were gathered around the building. Then they fired shots.
Witnesses to the shooting posted a number of videos on YouTube. One of the videos shows several armed men holding AK-47s yelling to the crowd "go home, get out of here."
One then cocks his weapon, and seconds later a man from the crowd steps forward and approaches another gunman, also carrying an AK-47, to speak with him. The gunman fires a warning shot over his head, but that doesn't deter the man. He continues to approach as shots continue and the man is struck by a bullet, falls to the ground and can be seen bleeding from his leg.
The video, shot by someone at the scene of the confrontation, has been authenticated based on accounts by AP journalists at the site and was consistent with AP's own reporting on what happened.
Eastern Ukraine has been gripped by unrest for the past month as pro-Russia insurgents occupied police stations and government buildings. Ukrainian forces have mounted a limited offensive to try to drive them out.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Sunday conducted referendums on declaring the regions as so-called sovereign people's republics. Leaders of the vote, which is regarded as illegitimate by the central government and the West, say that sometime after the referendum, a decision will be made on whether to remain part of Ukraine, declare independence of seek annexation into Russia.
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