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Russia's private military firms operate in legal grey area

Kiev and the West have accused Russian troops of participating in the Ukraine conflict on a massive scale. The Kremlin denies sending professional troops into the country and insists the Russians there are "volunteers" who have signed up to help the separatists. But increasingly, analysts are noting the presence of a third category of fighters: the employees of private military companies, or PMCs.

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While the private security industry is well established in the United States – with globally recognised brands such as Academi (formerly Blackwater) – Russia has never legalised their use. That could be about to change, however, as Russian PMCs certainly do exist and are now active internationally.

Programme prepared by Patrick Lovett and Elom Marcel Toble.

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