YouTube videos of armed men in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk are fueling speculation that the American mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater is operating in the region.
But there is also a chance the men are Russian mercenaries being used as propaganda by the Kremlin, reports The Daily Mail
The videos show men in unmarked uniforms jogging through the city, which has been the scene of pro-Russian protests. Onlookers can be heard shouting, "Blackwater! Blackwater!"
Blackwater is now known as Academi.
The two videos showing supposed mercenaries were uploaded last Monday, and their descriptions are written in Russian.
Story continues below videos.
The Mail says the soldiers appear to have shown up during a street protest against the current Ukrainian leadership, and they run away when people begin shouting, "Blackwater!" "Mercenaries!" and "Who are you going to shoot at?"
Moscow-based news agency Interfax on Wednesday reported that a Russian diplomat in Kiev said that 300 mercenaries were working 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 diplomat said. The nationalities of the mercenaries were not disclosed, but Interfax reported that the diplomat said, "Most of them come from the United States."
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed of the Institute for Policy Research & Development told the Mail it was difficult to say whether the soldiers are American.
"On the face of it, the uniforms of the people in the videos are consistent with U.S. mercs – they don't look like Russian soldiers mercs," he said. "On the other hand, why run around in public making a show of it?"
It also is possible that the soldiers are Russian and are being used as propaganda as a pretext should Russia decide to invade, Ahmed said.
According to RT
, the Russian news agency from which an American anchor resigned on air last week, the soldiers were armed with Russian AK assault rifles and American М4А1 carbines.
The Mail said it contacted Academi for comment, but received no reply.
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