Ukraine, Mali, Syria: in Wagner’s bloody wake

Citizens on the streets, charred bodies, rapes, mass graves and deaths too numerous to count. Two similar massacres committed in recent weeks more than 4,600 kilometers apart, in Africa and in Europe, and over which hangs one and the same name, Wagner.

Between March 27 and 31 in Moura, in central Mali, during a punitive expedition under cover of the hunt for jihadists, at least 300 people were massacredare by the Malian Armed Forces – who committed numerous abuses while still working with the French army – and men who most likely belonged to the Russian private military company Wagner, which has been deployed to the country since last year.

At the same time, Europe was horrified to discover the death left by the Russian army in Boutcha, and elsewhere around Kiev, in Ukraine. At least 320 people were killed and tortured, according to the mayor of the cityAccording to Der Spiegel magazineGerman intelligence services intercepted radio communications indicating the involvement of Russian soldiers.

According to this information, the Wagner Group has a “decisive role in the atrocities committed”. The British Ministry of Defence said on March 28 that a thousand fighters from this group of mercenaries would be deployed in Ukraine. And in late February, the Times revealed that 400 of them had been sent to Kiev to President Volodomyr Zelensk. to killthere

Moura and Boutcha are added to an already long list of atrocities committed by this army of mercenaries – whose existence is technically illegal in Russia – who unofficially carry out the Kremlin’s low works in Libya, in the Central African Republic or in Syria, now eight years old.

The Wagner Group was born precisely in Ukraine, in 2014, at the time of the conflict in the Donbass. Wagner is accused of having assassinated separatist leaders who distanced themselves too much from the Russian services. It was founded by a certain Dmitri Utkin, a former officer of the Russian special forces, covered in Nazi tattoos and ardent admirer of the Third Reich, personally decorated by Vladimir Putin in 2016† But it is the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, the “Putin’s Cook”who would actually be the manager of the organization.

Rape, Nazi graffiti and beheading

With at least 10,000 men who have passed through its ranks according to the BBC, this ghost army has been sent to all areas of operation occupied by Russia in recent years. Mercenaries have played a particularly crucial role in Syria, where the Russian military intervened in 2015 to rescue dictator Bashar al-Assad. It was there, in the midst of a conflict that killed nearly half a million people, that Wagner revealed his true nature.

In 2017, a video appeared on Russian social networks. We see several fighters hitting a Syrian civilian with a sledgehammer. In other extracts discovered in 2019, we see the same men chopping him up with a shovel, decapitating him and tying his body by the feet to set it on fire. It is the fighters themselves who film the scene and exchange jokes in Russian about the football match they are going to play with their victim’s head. The Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta identifies one of them, who appears with his face uncovered: a Wagner recruit.

The group has been deployed on many other fronts, most notably in Libya as of April 2019, where it attacked the Government of National Unity (GNA) in Tripoli along with the troops of Marshal Haftar, then also supported by France. In 2020, mercenaries routed, find GNA soldiers on the passage of the mercenaries mines and booby trapsexplosive trapssometimes posted on stuffed animals and toys.

Since 2017, the presence of mercenaries in Africa has only increased.

Nazi, Islamophobic and racist graffiti and “white power” have also been discovered on the walls of a burnt mosque in Ain Zara. GNA men captured during the fighting speak of summary executions carried out by Russian-speaking men. “Nobody wants one more mouth to feed”confirmed an ex-mercenary at the BBC2021.

Wagner’s violence spread to the rest of the African continent. Last year, a United Nations report delivered a damning finding on the methods of Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic (CAR), where Russia came in 2019 to fill the void abandoned by the French army. The report talks about executions of civilians, looting and attack on a mosque† He hates “arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and summary executions” and adds that Members of the Wagner Group have allegedly committed rape and sexual violence against women, men and girls in many parts of the country.

Total impunity

Demonstrations that do not stop the group’s fighters, especially since the UN group of experts on the CAR has been suspended since August 2021, because the renewal of its members has been blocked… by Russia. Last January, during a joint operation by Wagner’s mercenaries and government forces against rebel groups, dozens of civilians were reportedly killed in Bria600 kilometers east of the capital Bangui.

Since 2017, the presence of mercenaries in Africa just got bigger† They have been spotted in Sudan, Mozambique, and will be available soon make their appearance in Burkina Faso† Many of them have reportedly been recalled in recent weeks to participate in the invasion of Ukrainetrue evidence of crimes committed by Russian troops are piling up at breakneck speed

For eight years their impunity has been almost total. In 2019, three independent Russian journalists investigating Wagner’s activities were murdered an ambush that bears the mark of mercenaries† In March 2021, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Russian human rights NGO Memorial filed a complaint in Russia for the murder of the tortured and beheaded Syrian. Memorial was disbanded by the Kremlin in January. And, unsurprisingly, his legal action against Wagner was put in the closet from the following month.

in Libya, in August 2021, an arrest warrant was issued against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, because of his ties to Wagner and the Kremlin. He is already wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. What didn’t stop him be able to participate in the Libyan elections a few months later, even if this was finally cancelled

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Several individuals associated with Wagner, starting with Evgueni Prigojine himself, have been targeted by US, UK and European sanctions† However, the mercenaries still seem able to deploy at the gates of Europe and commit a massacre there. Nothing seems to be able to stop Wagner. Or almost. In 2018, US aviation had killed nearly a hundred fighters of the group when they attacked a Kurdish-controlled area in Syria. Refusing to admit the existence of these mercenaries, the Kremlin had fallen into its own trap and refrained from retaliating.

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