Vladimir Putin’s use of shadowy mercenaries from the Wagner Group in Ukraine in the face of a terrorist investigation

Russia should be classified as a state sponsor of terrorism for its use of the private mercenary company the Wagner groupParliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee will hear on Tuesday.

The parliamentary committee’s inquiry into the use of proxy private military companies (PMCs) focuses specifically on the Wagner Group’s active role in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, but will also examine Russia’s use of the group. during conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and South America.

The group, which is linked to the Russian government, has been accused of committing human rights atrocities, including mass executions, arbitrary detentions, torture during interrogations and forced displacement of the civilian population.

In an evidence session scheduled for Tuesday, Jason McCue, a partner at law firm McCue Jury and Partners, is expected to argue in favor of classifying Wagner as a terrorist organization — and Russia as a sponsor of terrorism.

Write in the I he said the Wagner Group was simply “a terrorist arm of the Russian state posing as a private security contractor”. A point he intends to make before the committee.

McCue, a lawyer specializing in conflict resolution, human rights and counter-terrorism, litigates against terrorists and dictators bringing charges against some of the most notorious actors including the IRA, Islamic State , Gaddafi, and recently represented victims of Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya. Muslims.

McCue argues that “the precursors to terrorism have long been apparent in Putin’s actions”, but “the Wagner Group is perhaps the best example of Russia’s use of terror as an entrenched state policy”.

Following McCue’s oral testimony, the committee will also hear from Professor Jason Blazakis, executive director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, as well as Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the businessman Russian exile and former political prisoner of the Kremlin. .

Three Russian journalists working for Mr. Khodorkovsky’s investigative outlet, The Center for Investigation, were killed in an ambush in 2018 while trying to cover Wagner’s operations in the Central African Republic.

This session will seek to explore the challenge posed by states’ use of PMCs as proxies in conflict and to destabilize fragile countries, and the UK government’s response.

While the committee will focus on the Wagner Group’s activity in Ukraine, it will also examine evidence that its operations extend to other countries, including the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela.

The Wagner Group began operating in Syria in 2015, fighting alongside pro-government forces and guarding oil fields, then supporting forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar in Libya where he was accused by the United States of planting landmines and other improvised explosive devices in and around the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

In 2017, the Wagner group was invited to the Central African Republic (CAR) to monitor diamond mines. The United Nations and the French government accused Wagner’s mercenaries of committing rapes and robberies against civilians in the CAR, and the EU imposed sanctions accordingly. The US Treasury also placed them under sanctions in 2020, saying Wagner had “acted as a cover” in countries for mining companies owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin – the alleged founder of the Wagner Group.

More recently, the Wagner Group was asked to provide security against militant Islamist groups by the government of Mali, West Africa. A US official said that the security situation in Mali had “considerably worsened” after the arrival of the Wagner group, which had played a decisive role in the withdrawal of French troops from the region.

The survey is part of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s work program on the “rules-based international order” – the international laws, rules and standards that affect our daily lives.

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, MP Tom Tugendhat, said: “This inquiry will ask what is currently known about the ‘proxy’ private military companies, in particular the Wagner Group. It will explore international law in this area and ask what more can be done to identify, track and sanction members of private military companies.

It’s time to call Wagner what he really is – a terrorist organization at the disposal of Vladimir Putin

Late last month, amid reports of Russian military unrest in eastern Ukraine, the man known as ‘Putin’s leader’ Yevgeny Prigozhin visited the site russian social media CV to confess what many had long suspected: that he was the mastermind behind the secret Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group.

Until recently, Prigozhin had denied that he or the Wagner group had any ties to the Kremlin. “I cleaned old guns myself, examined body armor,” he wrote, clearing up any confusion about his role. “From that moment… a group of patriots was born.”

The Wagner Group has long been an integral part of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy. From supporting dictators in Africa and exploiting its natural resources to ruthlessly training militia in Crimea. My experience in suing the IRA, Islamic State, Gaddafi and recently representing victims of Myanmar’s genocide against Rohingya Muslims, helps me see the Wagner Group for what it is – a terrorist wing of the Russian state posing as a private security. service provider.

On Tuesday I will make this point in Parliament before the Foreign Affairs Committee as part of its inquiry into the Wagner Group and proxy private military companies and talk about how the precursors to terrorism have long been apparent in the actions of Putin: the bombing of Ukrainian nuclear power plants; the inhumane opening and closing of gas and grain supplies – holding Europe and the world at ransom – and the state sanctioned use of torture, murder and rape as standard tools of war against the Ukrainians. But the Wagner Group is perhaps the best example of Russia’s use of terror as an entrenched state policy.

In recent months, Wagner has played a central role in the destruction of Ukraine. Their fearsome reputation, cemented in Crimea, was used to terrorize ordinary Ukrainians into fleeing the country ahead of February’s invasion by Russian forces. Putin acknowledged that by minimizing the number of civilians in the country, he could reduce civilian “collateral damage” and reduce the risk of NATO engagement.

Wagner has been linked to significant war crimes that range from targeting civilians to torture, to using rape and pillage as weapons of war.

It was Wagner who allegedly planted explosives around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility when regular forces refused to do so. They also initiated many atrocities in Bucha and are also publicly central to Russia’s policy of recruiting Category A prisoners – the worst of the worst in Russian prisons to Russian forces in Ukraine.

The group’s activities are the very definition of terrorism. It’s not controversial. What is controversial is that Wagner has not been designated as a terrorist group – or even Putin himself as a terrorist – or that Russia has not been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. So that we can begin to understand realpolitik around the latter, the same cannot be said of the former.

While millions of people have been terrorized to evacuate their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, it is incredible that this lie at the heart of Putin’s kleptocracy has not been qualified by the UN or foreign governments for what it is. Putin and his kleptocrats conspired with Wagner in a conspiracy of illegal means to deploy terrorism to further his illegal war.

This current war is not the old Cold War issue of East vs. West, nor is it a matter of ideology or culture – it is the pure pursuit of power through the use of terrorism by a dictatorship. Calling it what it is will begin to debunk the myth that Putin weaves about the Russian people: that this war is about romantic historical ideals or about defending and rebuilding the integrity of the Soviet.

Putin, the Gaddafiesque terrorist sponsor, on the other hand, whose financial and personal interests are aligned with employing his friend’s paid mercenaries – to do his dirty work, will be abhorred by ordinary Russian people. It is time for this lie to be exposed and for the world to recognize that it must come to terms with the reality of this kleptocratic regime and treat it as it does any other state sponsor of terrorism.

Exposing the Wagner Group and holding its members to account for their crimes in the same way as other terrorist organizations is an essential first step in this process.

Jason McCue is a founding partner of McCue Jury and Partners, specializing in conflict resolution, human rights and cross-border litigation

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