Amateur videos have been circulated over the internet alleging that armed forces from the infamous U.S. private security service formerly known as Blackwater roam around in eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
In the footage, unidentified armed men in military outfits equipped with Russian AK assault rifles and American M4A1 carbines are securing the protection of some pro-Kiev activists amidst anti-government protests, RT reported.
The authenticity of videos allegedly made in downtown Donetsk on March 5 is hard to verify.
The protesters in the footage, after several moments of shock, start shouting, “Blackwater!,” and “Mercenaries!,” as well as “Faggots!,” and “Who are you going to shoot at?!” But the armed men drive off in the blink of an eye without saying a word.
Blackwater does not exist anymore. It has changed its name twice in recent years and is now called Academi.
At the beginning of the week, Russian state TV reported that several hundred armed men with military-looking bags arrived to the international airport of Kiev.
Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday it was outraged by lawlessness in eastern Ukraine, blaming the far-right paramilitary movement Right Sector for "conniving" with the new government in Kiev.
According to Reuters, Russia accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place there against Russian compatriots.
The ministry said in a statement masked men had opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the eastern city of Kharkiv on March 8, wounding some.
It also said seven Russian journalists had been detained in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk, suggesting the new leaders and their Western allies were not committed to media freedoms.
"The shamefaced silence of our Western partners, human rights organizations and foreign media is surprising. It raises the question - where is the notorious objectivity and commitment to democracy?" it said.
In another development, Crimea's pro-Russian prime minister will give people living there the choice of taking Russian or Ukrainian passports if the Ukrainian territory becomes part of Russia in a March 16 referendum, RIA news agency reported on Monday.
Sergei Aksyonov, who declared himself provincial leader almost two weeks ago after Russians seized the parliament building, told the Russian news agency that Crimea would also encourage the use of two languages - Russian and Crimean Tatar.
Crimea's 2 million population, the focus of an increasingly bitter struggle for influence in Ukraine between East and West, has a narrow ethnic Russian majority but also includes more than 250,000 indigenous Tatars, who have returned since the 1980s after being deported by Stalin. They oppose Russian annexation.
"We will not insist on the necessity of returning Ukrainian passports," Aksyonov said.
"Everyone will have the opportunity to develop their own language. We do not want to limit the Crimean Tatars."
Poland criticizes Germany for reliance on Russian gas
Meanwhile, Germany's reliance on Russian natural gas poses a threat to European sovereignty, Polish Prime Minister Doland Tusk warned Monday amid rising East-West tensions over Ukraine.
"Germany's reliance on Russian gas can effectively limit European sovereignty. I have no doubt," Tusk told reporters, days ahead of a Warsaw visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Reuters reported.
The top European economy buys around one third of its oil and gas from Russia and has extensive trade and investment links with the vast country to the east.
Germany has tried to defuse the Western standoff with Moscow over Ukraine, but analysts say its voice is muted by fears of endangering its economic ties with Russia.
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