Ukrainian soldiers drive their Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) vehicles in the eastern Ukrainian town of Druzhkovka, Ukraine, 19 August 2014: photo - EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland dissociates itself from media speculation about the alleged involvement of Polish mercenaries in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Information available to us does not corroborate such allegations,” a statement by ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski says.
The denial follows a report by the German DPA news agency on 16 August that Ukraine military sources told them foreign nationals, including Poles, were fighting in eastern Ukraine.
On 14 August, Russian and pro-Russian web sites were claiming that ASBS Othago, a Polish mercenary unit, was involved in fighting rebels.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that for a few months different media outlets have been reporting about the alleged involvement of Polish citizens in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. So far, none of these reports have been confirmed, which could indicate that such allegations are being used as an element of an information war,” the Polish foreign ministry says.
The ministry said, however, that if Poles were fighting in Ukraine then they will be punished.
“Under Polish law, anyone serving in foreign military units without an authorisation from the competent national authority commits an offence (Article 141 of the Polish Criminal Code) liable to imprisonment of up to five years,” says the statement.
“We call on editors to put a stop to such media speculations,” the statement continues.
Meanwhile, fighting was reported in the city of Donetsk, Tuesday.
A Reuters reporter said intense shooting broke out, as five or six rebel gunmen ran through a shopping mall car park, ducking behind cars and firing their guns, though there was no sign of Ukrainian troops in the area.
Ukraine has made advances in eastern Ukraine and particularly around Donetsk, which has been under rebel control since April this year.
In other developments, Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart will meet next week for the first time in months to try to end the confrontation, which the UN says has killed over 2,000 in the last four months.
The Polish opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has called on the government to launch a programme of humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.
Party leader Leszek Miller has announced that he would also address a letter to the leaders of Europe’s social democratic parties to act together to restore peace in Ukraine and help in the country’s development. (pg/mk)