This article originally appeared at Mail Online
A group of Western aid workers for an organisation headed by former Foreign Secretary David Miliband have been thrown out of pro-Moscow eastern Ukraine on suspicion of ‘espionage’.
The move against the International Rescue Committee (IRC) comes one week ahead of Britain’s election that could lead to his brother Labour leader Ed Miliband emerging as prime minister, and will be seen as a warning shot by the Kremlin.
A Russian news agency with close ties to the Russian secret services aired footage of seven US and EU nationals being loaded onto a coach bound for Kiev from the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic.
Earlier, masked gunmen raided the office of the New York-based IRC in Donetsk, and a security source accused the humanitarian organisation of concealing ‘eavesdropping equipment’ on the premises.
An official in the rebel region alleged the ‘main duty’ of the IRC’s male and female staff was ‘intelligence collection not humanitarian aid’.
‘Foreign employees established contact with officials in DPR ministries and agencies, showing interest in obtaining information about the situation in the republic,’ said a source.
The agency was accused of ‘hiring DPR citizens for work without signing agreements with them, evading the payment of taxes into the DPR budget’.
Footage showed mobile phones and money – valued at around £15,600 – apparently confiscated in the office.
The move comes amid fears Russia is preparing to back new military action in eastern Ukraine to grab further territory for rebels opposed to the Kiev government.
‘They claimed that they aid women and girls who have suffer from any kind of violence and experience post-traumatic stress,’ an MGB security source said, according to LifeNews in Moscow.
‘However, this assistance is purely emotional – conducting group sessions, individual consultations, and meetings of interest, workshops.’
In fact they ‘stirred up opposition’ to the Donetsk authorities.
‘They also took down personal details from people’s passports’ and sought to ‘weasel out information’ from rebel officials.
‘Our specialists detected these people trying to eavesdrop,’ said the source.
The LifeNews correspondent said: ‘Special bugging devices [were] found at the organization’s office. This organisation also works in those countries which have witnessed revolutions and illegal coups.
‘Money confiscated, [was] the equivalent of 500,000 Hryvnia. All the employees suspected of espionage were taken to the hotel where they were staying and had a chance to pack their belongings before being deported from the DPR’s territory to Kiev.’
The workers were operating ‘illegally’ under the aegis of the US Agency for International Development, it was claimed.
One of those sent by coach to Kiev was named as humanitarian operations manager Bruce Perry, who was quoted denying any allegations of improper conduct.
‘We were supposed to begin our work and start our programme of assistance,’ he said.
‘The local administration gave us lists of the neediest residents of the local administration, so, we started working in the area. We also talked to people to find out which areas most needed our help.’
The security source said: ‘Our troops issued them the formal order of deportation, along with subsequent prohibition of re-entry to the Republic, took them to a checkpoint on the Zaporozhe motorway, and put them on an autobus bound for Kiev.’
The West sees Moscow as pulling the strings in eastern Ukraine, where an uneasy ceasefire is in increasing jeopardy.
David Miliband became the President and CEO of the IRC on 1 September 2013 on a reported salary of £300,000.
The IRC declined to comment when contacted by MailOnline.