Russian foreign minister accuses US mercenaries of working in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia has “very strong” suspicions U.S. mercenaries are operating in Ukraine.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Lavrov said he relayed a message to Washington asking for a response to these rumors, which were first reported by a German newspaper.

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Lavrov referred to people in Ukraine wearing black uniforms with no identification, who some think are affiliated with the radical ultra-nationalist group the Right Sector. He also referred to reports that 400 mercenaries are operating in Ukraine.

“I sent a message from ambassador to Washington asking him to respond to these assertions from the German media,” he said. “Rumors to this effect were spread even before and [Secretary of State] John Kerry rejected them. Now they popped up again, and we’d like to see whether this is true or not.” 

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday that employees of U.S. security firm Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, were participating in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protestors.

In March, Academi rejected suggestions its employees were in Ukraine, calling the statements “unfounded.”

U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine.

Lavrov warned increased violence in Ukraine has left the country on the brink of a civil war.

“When Ukrainians kill Ukrainians, I believe this is as close to a civil war as you can get,” he said.