ROME — Italian police say they have arrested three men accused of recruiting mercenary fighters to take part in the Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Three more people are being sought.

In a statement Wednesday, carabinieri police said they searched the homes of another seven people as part of the investigation into the Italian-Ukrainian recruitment network. Some of the suspects had ties with a commander of a neo-Nazi paramilitary unit called "Rusich," which operates in the Ukrainian Donbass region.

The four-year Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 10,000 people.

Police noted that recruiting and paying mercenary fighters is illegal in Italy and violates an international convention adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1989.