Experienced mercenaries from private Russian companies are in Ukraine and helping to support the invasion, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said.
Private Military Companies (PMCs) are “likely deploying to fight in Ukraine”, the MoD has said in an intelligence update.
In statement, it said: “The Russian state almost certainly maintains extensive links with Russian PMCs, despite repeated denials.”
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Officials are concerned that Russia is planning to use violence to control the Ukrainian population.
A European official told the Associated Press that Russia was considering “aggressive measures” including “violent crowd control, repressive detention of protest organisers” and even public executions.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs that Russia’s use of the so-called Wagner Group, which is owned by one of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, is a sign of the Kremlin’s “desperation”.
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The group has been accused by Western governments and analysts of human rights abuses in Africa and involvement in the conflict in Libya.
Mr Wallace said the group was “responsible for all sorts of atrocities in Africa and the Middle East. And the fact that Russia is now trying to encourage them to take part in Ukraine, I think, is a telling sign”.
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