Wagner Group: The United States designates the group of Russian mercenaries as an international criminal organization
The United States on Friday, January 20, labeled the Russian paramilitary group Wagner an international criminal organization and denounced its abuses in Ukraine, its use of weapons supplied by North Korea and its massive recruitment of detainees.
The Wagner group gradually emerged from the shadows. Therefore, the United States decided to strike hard, calling the Russian paramilitary group an international criminal organization on Friday and specifically denouncing its abuses perpetrated in Ukraine.
“Wagner is a criminal organization that commits enormous atrocities and human rights abuses,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “We further understand that the Wagner Group currently has about 50,000 people deployed in Ukraine, including 10,000 mercenaries and 40,000 prisoners” to such an extent that it has raised the Russian Defense Ministry’s “concerns” about its “recruitment methods.” did he say.
That official announced that Washington would soon impose more sanctions on the Wagner group after Friday’s classification of the group as a criminal organization like the mafia or other organized crime-related organizations like the yakuza.
With the support of North Korea
John Kirby also showed US intelligence press satellite imagery of alleged Russian train cars leaving Russia for North Korea and then returning to Russian territory carrying military equipment, including missiles for the Wagner Group in Ukraine. The pictures were taken on November 18 and 19, he said, adding that the United States had shared this information with the UN Security Council as part of sanctions against Pyongyang.
The paramilitary group is led by Yevgeny Prigoyine, a 61-year-old Russian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, and is very active in the bitter struggle to take Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine. It operates elsewhere in the world, particularly in Africa. “We will work tirelessly to identify, expose and target anyone who supports Wagner,” said John Kirby.
According to Washington, the group is gaining power and is now competing with Russian forces.
“Tensions” with the Russian army
“We have intelligence that tensions between Wagner and the Department of Defense are escalating,” he said. “Wagner is emerging as a power center that competes with the Russian army and other Russian ministries,” said the American official, for whom “Prigozhin represents his own interests in Ukraine.”
The divisions between the Russian army and the Wagner group noted by many observers came to light during the battle for the small town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine. When Prigoyine claimed responsibility for taking Soledar, he was quickly contradicted by the Russian Defense Ministry, which itself announced taking the city two days later, which Kyiv denied.
Since last summer, Wagner’s troops and the Russian army have been attempting to conquer Bakhmout, this city in the Donetsk region (east) of questionable strategic interest but great symbolic power. However, the Kremlin on Monday denied any tensions between the Russian army and the paramilitary group.
The Wagner Group, formed in 2014, has recruited thousands of inmates to fight in Ukraine in exchange for reduced sentences. Previously discreet, Prigoyine has established itself as a key player in the conflict in Ukraine.