Russia urges probes of EU mercenaries in Ukraine
Iran Press TV
Tue Jul 22, 2014 7:57AM GMT
Russia's Foreign Ministry has demanded a number of European countries to conduct a thorough investigation into alleged participation by their citizens as mercenary fighters in eastern Ukraine.
In a statement on Monday, the Russian ministry urged the authorities in Sweden, Finland, and France as well as the Baltic states to investigate the issue.
"We demand the authorities of the above-mentioned countries to conduct a thorough investigation into these facts and condemn the participation of mercenaries in the hostilities in eastern Ukraine," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry mentioned a report published recently in Italian media, saying mercenaries from the European countries fought in the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary group supporting the Kiev government, against pro-Russia forces in Ukraine's eastern regions.
"If the information in this article is true,… it is yet another confirmation of involvement of foreign fighters in the armed internal conflict in Ukraine," the Russian ministry said.
Other media outlets have reported of the presence of a Swedish mercenary fighter in Ukraine. Mikael Skillt, a neo-Nazi and former Swedish army soldier, has confirmed that he is fighting for the Azov Battalion, saying he has three positions, namely commander, sniper and special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.
According to reports, the Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine's Interior Ministry and receives financing from Ukrainian oligarch and Governor Igor Kolomoisky.
Last month, Moscow issued arrest warrants for Kolomoysky and Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on charges of the using prohibited means and methods of warfare, organizing murders and abductions and obstructing professional activities of journalists.
Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking parts in the east have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia activists and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in mid-April in a bid to crush the pro-Russia protests. Violence intensified in May after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums, in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the ongoing military campaign in the country. Tens of thousands have escaped to Russia, while over 4.5 million people remain in the conflict zone, according to a UN report.
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