Russian forces say they killed dozens of Polish mercenaries in an airstrike in eastern Ukraine. According to Moscow, the possibly thirty mercenaries worked for a private company in Poland. They are said to have died in the village of Izioemske, more than 100 kilometres southeast of Kharkiv.
In the region between Kharkiv and Donetsk, Russia is trying to capture to encircle the Ukrainians on the even more eastern front.
Militias raised by private individuals and experienced mercenaries from ‘security firms’ have played an important role in the conflict since the armed struggle in eastern Ukraine began in 2014. In the battle for the southeastern port of Mariupol, mainly far-right Ukrainian militias are fighting against the Russian-backed “people’s militias” from Donetsk and Luhansk.
The city fell to the far-right fighters in 2014 after it emerged that the Ukrainian army did not have the equipment and troops to defeat the pro-Russian insurgents in the east.
Russia regularly uses the paramilitary organization Wagner, in several conflicts worldwide. These mercenaries also played an important role in the fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and 2015. According to British and American military intelligence, about a thousand mercenaries from the Wagner Group are currently fighting in eastern Ukraine.