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American Fighting in Ukraine? Video Shows 'Hunter from Illinois'

The authenticity of footage showing "Hunter" who is "originally from ... Illinois" could not be independently verified by NBC News.

A pro-Moscow rebel fighting in eastern Ukraine has been filmed speaking with an American accent and encouraging U.S. citizens to join him. Stating his name was "Hunter" and that he's "originally from … Illinois," he was dressed in military fatigues and a camouflage balaclava during the interview-style video. The footage's authenticity could not be independently verified by NBC News. Asked by someone off camera why he had traveled to eastern Ukraine, Hunter admitted his knowledge "of the political situation in Kiev is limited." He then offered the pro-Kremlin explanation of the conflict: "The people of Donbass [eastern Ukraine] want to be independent from the Kiev junta. It seems to be a very straightforward, simple situation." He added:"If people want to come here, particularly from the West…it would be good to come here…people with U.S. military experience would be very valuable here."

James Nixey, head of the Russia Eurasia program at London’s Chatham House think tank, said the idea Americans might be fighting in eastern Ukraine was not surprising. Dr Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said it was possible that Hunter was a member of the Russian special forces. He highlighted the rebel in the video used the Russian pronunciation of the word "junta" on the first occasion — evidence of a possible slip-up — before reverting to its American pronunciation. Last month, American citizen Mark Gregory Paslawsky, 55, who was known on the battlefield as “Franko,” died while fighting for the Kiev government in the east of the country.


- Alexander Smith