Kremlin accuses U.S. security firm with links to Blackwater of sending ‘private army’ to Ukraine disguised as local forces in latest escalation of anti-American rhetoric
- Russian Foreign Ministry said there were around ‘150 American specialists’
- Statement claimed security firm Greystone sent in specialists ‘disguised’
- Greystone Ltd founded in 2004 and broke away as standalone firm in 2010
- It was an affiliate of Xe Services, which changed name from Blackwater
- Four former guards facing trial over 2007 Iraq shooting which killed 14
- Greystone refused to comment today when contacted by MailOnline
Russia claims 150 Americans have been sent to Ukraine by a U.S. firm with historic links to Blackwater – the private security contractor which made headlines after a mass shooting in Iraq.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow today condemned the use of a supposed private army by Greystone Ltd ‘disguised’ as local forces.
Greystone, which claims it recruits from the world’s top armies and police forces, was founded in 2004 as an affiliate of Blackwater before breaking away to become a standalone firm in 2010.
Four former Blackwater security guards are facing trial in the U.S. over a 2007 shooting which killed 14 people in Baghdad.
The statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs came as the Kremlin – which is facing international condemnation for sending troops into Crimea – warned ‘civil war’ could be looming in eastern Ukraine.
It condemned the arrest today of 70 pro-Russian activists who stormed a government building in Kharkiv, just 25 miles from the Russian border.
Russia, which has 40,000 troops on its side of the border, claimed the ‘crackdown’ was ‘against the policies of the current government in Kiev’.
The statement then added: ‘Of particular concern is the fact that in this operation are about 150 American specialists from the private military organization “Greystone”, disguised in the form of units of the “Falcon”.
‘Organizers and participants of this provocation are taking on a huge responsibility to create threats to the rights, freedoms and lives of civilians and for the stability of the Ukrainian State.
‘We call for the immediate cessation of any military preparations, which could lead to the outbreak of civil war.‘
The Wall Street Journal reported Greystone had categorically denied deploying anyone in Ukraine. An article quoted representative Coreena Taylor saying: ‘We do not have anyone working in Ukraine nor do we have any plans to deploy anyone to the region.’
Blackwater was controversial after it received public money to protect U.S. officials in Iraq.
But it made headlines globally in 2007 for a shooting which killed 14 people in Baghdad.
Four former Blackwater security guards are facing trial in the U.S. accused of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations.
Prosecutors are due to claim they held ‘deep hostility’ towards Iraqi civilians and did not act reasonably in the heat of the moment.
A U.S. Justice Department filing said the guards’ views were ‘openly expressed to other Blackwater personnel and exhibited through their deliberately reckless actions’.
The guards’ defence is expected to state that they believed they were under hostile fire.
The trial is due to begin in June.
Pressed on whether the comments reported by the Wall Street Journal was accurate or officially sanctioned, a representative replied: ‘This is officially sanctioned: We have no comment.’
A U.S. State Department spokesman said it could not answer for a private company, but added: ‘We do not have any U.S. military units in Ukraine.’
Greystone started work in 2004 ‘as an affiliate of what is now Xe Services,’ according to its website.
Xe Services was a new name for Blackwater, which was founded in 1997 but changed its name in 2009. It has since changed its name again to Academi.
Greystone broke away from Xe Services in 2010, and set up as a standalone firm.
Last month MailOnline reported videos which had surfaced on Youtube – with Russian language descriptions – which claimed to show ‘Blackwater’ soldiers roaming the eastern city of Donetsk.
Asked whether the men seen in the videos could be Academi employees, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, a security expert with the Institute for Policy Research & Development, said: ‘Difficult to say really. It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility – Academi have been deployed in all sorts of theatres.‘
Analysts fear that if an American firm did have direct involvement in Ukraine, it could give the Kremlin justification for sending in its troops.
But Dr Ahmed added: ‘Of course the other possibility is it’s all Russian propaganda.’
Armed and masked: A Ukrainian policeman stands guard in the country’s second-largest city Kharkiv, where special forces ousted activists from a government building (pictured) and arrested 70 people today
Today Dr Ahmed, who is employed by a not-for-profit organisation studying global conflict, told MailOnline: ‘It’s impossible for outside observers to determine the veracity of Russian claims about Greystone mercenaries.
‘The problem is that no independent sources are corroborating this narrative which is either coming directly from the Kremlin, or being promoted by Russian news agencies which we know have been used as propaganda tools before.
– Dr Nafeez Ahmed, Institute for Policy Research & Development
‘However, what’s clear is that both Russia and the United States have been interfering in Ukraine over the last decade as they compete for geopolitical influence in one of the most critical energy crossroads in the region, if not the world.
‘The war of words we now see between Russia and the US over the Greystone allegations could be a disturbing prelude to the escalating destabilisation of Ukraine.’
Today British Foreign Secretary William Hague fired a broadside at statements by the Kremlin – saying the unrest in Ukraine has ‘all the hallmarks’ of a Russian campaign.
He told Parliament: ‘There can be no justification for this action, which bears all the hallmarks of a Russian strategy to destabilise Ukraine.
‘Russia should be clear that the deliberate escalation of this crisis will bring serious political and economic consequences.’
NATO has also stepped up its rhetoric against Russia.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a press conference today: ‘If Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine it would be a historic mistake.
‘It would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia and would further isolate Russia internationally.’