The chasm between western-backed insurgents in Kiev and Russia-aligned populations in eastern Ukraine continues to grow as the Donetsk region has now asked to join Russia, according to reports Monday, following a contentious referendum vote over the weekend.

Hours after final results revealed a 90% majority in Donetsk and 96% in Luhansk voting for state sovereignty, leaders of the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk” have asked Moscow to consider absorbing the Russian-bordering state.

The referendum vote, which the interim government in Kiev has dismissed as illegitimate, was marked by increasing tensions and bloodshed in at least one polling place.

Rumors have begun to circulate that mercenaries contracted by the U.S. firm Academi, formerly Blackwater, have been deployed to Kiev. According to German news source Bild on Friday, and repeated by Der Spiegel, Ukrainian security forces are being supported by over 100 “elite soldiers” involved in a “punitive operation mounted by Ukraine’s new government.” The information was leaked to the media by sources from German foreign intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Blackwater mercenaries were made infamous during the invasion of Iraq for their frequent and unprovoked massacre of innocent civilians.