They’re on the European blacklist: why is the Wagner group different from other mercenary units?
Western governments accuse Moscow of using the Wagner Group in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Mozambique and the Central African Republic
On paper, the Wagner Group, a Russian network that provides fighters for hire, does not exist. Founded in 2014 by intelligence officer Dmitry Utkin to support Ukrainian separatists, Wagner’s mercenaries have so far fought for the interests of Russia and its allies in Africa and the Middle East, and are also involved in Syria’s civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. They have been accused of atrocities.
The author of the award-winning documentary about the activities of the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic, Carole Valade, was a guest on TNT and presented information about this group.
– We lived in the Central African Republic for a year and a half, so it was a logical step to work on this topic and investigate Russian activity. You have a Russian presence everywhere. You can see the mercenaries on the streets and their presence is obvious. But at the same time it was forbidden to talk about their presence. You couldn’t ask about the Russians and what they were doing there. Everybody got scared and refused to talk. There was a kind of law of silence, so we decided to investigate, he said.
According to him, there was a hostile atmosphere during the filming because the journalists were French, and Russian propaganda supported anti-French sentiments.
– So it was difficult, but over time and with great caution we were able to contact people on both sides. It was important for us to get access to people who were victims of mercenaries, but also to those who were collaborating with the propaganda system. The murder of three Russian journalists in 2018 was on our minds. At that time, the Russians were just coming to the Central African Republic. We arrived in the country three years later, so it wasn’t that bad. But every time we tried to write something about human rights violations and killings, we were always exposed to attacks and obstruction on social media, he said.
At this moment, when the war that is close to us is going on, we tend to narrow our sight and I think we need to see what is happening in some other parts of the world. Russia is not only acting in Ukraine, where it is questioning the values of the EU. Few people know what is happening in Africa, and they are acting in other countries, for example in Mali, where they are using the same methods. They are committing mass murder and there are accusations of human rights violations. They are questioning democratic values and gaining more and more influence in the form of public opinion, which is disillusioned with Western and French policy. They are turning to Russia and we need to think about this because it calls into question democracy and the freedoms that the EU defends, he said.
He says the Wagner group is different from all other military groups.
– It is a tool for spreading Russian influence. What we have found is that mercenaries have taken control of the highest political positions in the country. This country is very fragile and poor, and they can use it as a testing ground for new propaganda activities. They are trying different things to expand the impact, he said.
– There is no control over military action. Even the UN has no control and no real information about their activities. That is why we cannot give an exact number of how many are there, he said.
Trained mercenaries are involved in wars around the world, they are silent about them.
The Wagner group is on the European sanctions list.
This unit, according to the media, is made up of trained mercenaries ready to participate in wars around the world.
Western governments accuse Moscow of using Wagner’s group as a paramilitary force in conflicts in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Mozambique and the Central African Republic.
Russia’s private military company Wagner drew global attention in 2014 during the war in Ukraine when it supported pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in the east of the country.
It is also linked to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, which put Russia under EU and US sanctions. Moscow has denied the allegations of a link to Wagner, N1 reports.
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted publicly for the first time that he created the group, later called Wagner, in 2014, noting that thanks to their bravery, the fate of the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk has radically changed, and the peoples of Syria, Arab, African and Latin American countries have received protection. Prigozhin’s comment was published in the social network VKontakte on the page of his company Concord, RIA Novosti reported./Oslobođenje