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Militia claim spotting up to 70 mercenaries of US military company Academi in east Ukraine

US military company Academi was earlier known as Blackwater

MOSCOW, April 21. /TASS/. Kiev has moved to the area of the village of Volnovakha 70 mercenaries of the private US military company Academi, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Eduard Basurin, told a news briefing on Tuesday.

"According to the available information, in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces, namely, in Volnovakha, the presence of 70 representatives of the private military company Academi has been revealed. Earlier, that company was known under the name of Blackwater," the Donetsk news agency quotes Basurin as saying.

He recalled that the organization is known for "fulfilling direct orders from the US State Department in hot spots."

"In 2007, fighters of that private military firm became notorious for shooting 17 civilians in Iraq, among whom were women and children. The event caused a wide response worldwide, after which the organization changed its name. Now the criminal organization is fighting against peaceful Donbass on the side of the Ukrainian authorities," Basurin said.

The Defense Ministry said the presence of the Academi company in Ukraine, in close proximity to the contact line between the conflicting sides, testifies to violation of Point 10 of the Minsk agreements, which says that illegal armed groups and military equipment as well as fighters and mercenaries should be withdrawn from Ukraine.

In this connection, the DPR authorities are calling on international organizations to join the investigation of the incident.

German media reported last May that data about 400 fighters from Blackwater, supporting Kiev forces in the east of Ukraine came from US intelligence agency.

The White House denied the media reports of US mercenaries hired from private military company Blackwater in eastern Ukraine.

In December, the Academi confirmed its readiness to start training a Ukrainian battalion for street fighting.

Situation around Ukraine

Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee Ukraine’s embattled east in clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics and constitute parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

A ceasefire was agreed upon by the parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) during talks on September 5, 2014 in the Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine. The ceasefire has reportedly been numerously violated since.

The Trilateral Contact Group on east Ukrainian settlement comprising representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE adopted a memorandum on September 19, 2014 in Minsk. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the 12-point Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

The nine-point memorandum in particular envisioned a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibers of over 100 millimeters to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.

The Contact Group’s meetings in late December 2014 and on January 31, 2015 did not bring major results. Regular talks of the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group were held in Minsk on February 10-12, 2015. Normandy Four leaders also discussed the Ukrainian issue in Minsk then.

A 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk agreements was adopted at those talks.

The package in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including enforcement of a special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The foreign ministers of the Normandy Four held talks on Ukraine in Berlin on April 13. The focus of the negotiations was implementation of the February 12 Minsk deals ("Minsk-2").