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FEARS of a US invasion of Ukraine’s breakaway Donbass region have been raised amid allegations that the controversial Blackwater private security company — since renamed Academi — is training mercenaries for the task.
Deputy chief-of-staff of the Donetsk People’s Republic militia Eduard Basurin said US instructors had been spotted in a far-right training camp in the Sumy region of north-eastern Ukraine over the weekend.
“The Sumy branch of the National Corps radical organisation has embarked on training its mercenaries under the supervision of nationalists who have combat experience in the 2014 Donbass punitive operation.
“We also have information on US instructors of private military companies taking part in the training process, such as Forward Observations Group and Academi,” he said.
The National Corps party was formerly known as the Patriots of Ukraine. Its core base of support comes from the neonazi Azov battalion, which has since been integrated into the Ukrainian army.
Kiev has also mobilised a number of brigades to the contact line separating Ukraine from Donetsk — the eastern region declared independence in 2014 following the US and EU-backed fascist-led Maidan coup — including the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade and the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade, according to Mr Basurin.
“The 80th brigade finalised refresher training at the Starichi training centre of the Lvov region, which functions under the guise of an international peacekeeping and security centre.
“British instructors of Operation Orbital [Britain’s deployment in Ukraine] were responsible for training this brigade,” he said.
The military leader said there is a high possibility these units would be used as part of assault teams targeting major cities in the Donbass region as tensions continue to escalate.
Mr Basurin said preparations are under way for an invasion under US supervision, with a date for the offensive yet to be approved.
Blackwater hit the headlines when its operatives shot dead 17 innocent civilians in the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007.
Four Blackwater employees were jailed following a lengthy campaign for justice — but were pardoned by former US president Donald Trump in December 2020.
Blackwater was rebranded Academi in 2011 after it was acquired by a group of private investors. In 2014 it merged with rival security company Triple Canopy to form Constellis Group.
Constellis was bought for $1 billion (about £750 million) by investment company Apollo Group in 2016.
In September 2020 Apollo Group entered a $5.5 billion real-estate investment partnership with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), one of the world’s largest oil companies and a major exporter of liquefied natural gas.
In December 2021 Adnoc was invited to enter a joint venture to create an oil and gas terminal in the Ukrainian port of Odessa for transportation to western countries.
The announcement came a month after chief executive of the Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz Yuriy Vitrenko told an Abu Dhabi energy conference that he hoped the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline into Europe, which bypasses Ukraine, would not be approved.
He said that Ukraine stood to lose $2 billion per year — about 1.5 per cent of its GDP — if the Russian pipeline was operational, claiming that Nord Stream 2 “is actually putting the whole continent and global security at risk.”
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