United States of America: Wagner is considered an international criminal organization
The White House confirmed that the mercenary group had about “50,000” personnel deployed as part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
LThe United States has designated the Russian paramilitary group Wagner an international criminal organization, the White House announced on Friday, denouncing its activities in Ukraine. “Wagner is a criminal organization that committed gross atrocities and human rights violations,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, noting that the mercenary group had something to do with it. “50,000” people were deployed in Ukraine.
“We continue to consider that Wagner’s group currently has about 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine, including 10,000 mercenaries and 40,000 prisoners” so much so as to raise “objections” from the Russian Defense Ministry about its “recruitment methods,” he said.
The official said Washington would take further action against Wagner’s group following Friday’s designation of the group as a criminal organization. He also shared satellite imagery showing Russian trains bound for North Korea to supply equipment for the Wagner group. The paramilitary group was led by Yevgeny Prigojine and was very active in the fierce battle for Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine.
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He also showed the press satellite images taken by US intelligence of Russian train carriages that were supposed to leave Russia for North Korea and then return to Russian territory with military equipment, including rockets for the Wagner Group in Ukraine. The pictures were taken on November 18 and 19, he said, adding that the United States had passed the information to the UN Security Council as part of sanctions targeting Pyongyang.
The paramilitary group is led by Yevgeny Prigojine, a 61-year-old Russian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, and very active in the bitter battle for Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine. It operates elsewhere in the world, particularly in Africa.
“We will work tirelessly to identify, expose and target all people who assist Wagner,” said John Kirby. According to Washington, the group is growing in power and is now rivaling Russian troops.
“Tension” with the Russian army
“We have intelligence that tensions between Wagner and the Department of Defense are escalating,” he said. “Wagner became a center of power in competition with the Russian army and other Russian ministries,” said the American official who “Prigozhin is furthering his own interests in Ukraine.” “Wagner makes military decisions on an overall basis of what they will produce in his favor especially in terms of publicity,” he added.
The split between the Russian army and Wagner’s group, noted by many observers, burst into the open during the battle for the small town of Soledar, in eastern Ukraine. When Yevgeny Prigojine claimed responsibility for taking Soledar, he was quickly opposed by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which itself announced the capture of the city two days later, which Kyiv denied.
Since last summer, Wagner’s forces and the Russian army have been trying to take Bakhmout, this city in the Donetsk (eastern) region of questionable strategic importance, but which has acquired great symbolic weight.
The Kremlin, however, on Monday denied any tensions between the Russian army and paramilitary groups, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking of “manipulation”. The Wagner Group, founded in 2014, has recruited thousands of convicts to fight in Ukraine in exchange for reduced sentences. Formerly wise, Prigojine has established himself as a major player in the conflict in Ukraine.