What will be the consequences for the Russian paramilitary groups?

TV5 MONDE: what are the challenges of this designation as a “transnational criminal organization”?

The United States currently has three reasons for including Wagner on its list. First, mention the facts: Wagner is a terrorist criminal organization, everyone saw it. It functions by terrorizing the population, committing extraordinary atrocities in present-day Ukraine but also elsewhere, by total genocidal activity: cities are being destroyed, there is systematic killing of civilians, women, children, rape.

This is a message sent to the world about the true nature of the group (…). This is an army of terror, in the service of the State.
Dominique Simonnet, journalist specializing in American politics

(Reread): The United States designates the Wagner group as an international criminal organization

Second, it is a message to the world about the true nature of the band. He returns the truth to the utterly watered-down words of Vladimir Putin. Wagner is a paramilitary and terrorist organization, which practices terror and acts “officially” or almost: Evgueni Prigojine, (lead editor’s note of the Wagner group), now boasts of being mandated by Russia, even though a few months ago Vladimir Putin claimed he had never heard of Wagner. There, we can clearly see that it is a terror troop serving a Country.

(Re)look: who are these mercenaries from the Russian group Wagner?

In Ukraine, we are talking about 50,000 troops and most of them are prisoners who broke out of Russian prisons to join Wagner. These are people without faith or law, who are paid to kill, rape and pay for themselves with beasts, with plunder. We are no longer within the framework of the rules of war. Wagner continued to commit war crimes. This is quite new, the arrival of the private sector that is coming to take over a Country and that is coming to fight, in the worst possible way, on its behalf.

Designating Wagner as a criminal organization demonstrates to all those who will use their services, in Africa or elsewhere, that this organization is truly sulphurous and is recognized by the international community as dangerous and must be prosecuted.

Third: there are sanctions, including financial sanctions.

What are these sanctions and do they really have an impact?

This is a freeze on overseas assets, particularly for prominent Wagner members. It also concerns the prohibition of American citizens from cooperating in any way with Wagner and in particular conducting financial transactions with any of its members or leaders. We also talked about the ban on obtaining visas. There is also the possibility of legal proceedings.

There have been several rounds of congressional sanctions against Wagner since the organization’s role in Crimea in 2014.
Dominique Simonnet, journalist specializing in American politics

It’s always the same thing but these sanctions are having a real impact and we see them especially for oligarchs close to Putin. In the United States, there have been several rounds of congressional sanctions against Wagner, since the organization’s role in Crimea in 2014. There is also Syria, where Wagner is the arm of the terrorist Bashar al-Assad, there is Sudan, where they support Omar Al-Bashir. Today there is of course Ukraine but also Libya, Central African Republic, Mali where they have acted more intensely since the French withdrawal.

(Re)see: Central African Republic: how does the Russian Wagner group finance its activities in the country?

We are causing economic waves everywhere with these economic sanctions, but there is a direct impact on the people concerned. And we see that there is real coordination between the European Union and the United States, Great Britain, democracies in general. There is a western front both militarily to assist Ukraine and to convey information about the people involved.

Would classifying them as an international criminal organization lead to more prosecutions against Wagner, especially by organizations like Interpol?

This opens the way for appeals before various bodies, in particular the International Criminal Court, the European Court, etc. It’s not criminal, so it’s not about Interpol or the police, it’s not the same field: it’s about war crimes. By naming things, we pave the way for lawsuits, even if it’s bound to happen a second or third time.

For now, it’s hard to say how the situation will develop, as this is a new landscape. There has always been a militia, but an organization that occupies the front line in Ukraine, which replaces the state army with nothing but terror and crime… I don’t think we have ever seen anything like this, of this magnitude, in recent history. and we are helpless against it.

(Re)see: how does the Wagner group work? Marat Gabidullin, former mercenary testifies

But the most important thing is to say what it is about! Especially when we are at war not only in the field but also involving social media. This is a dimension of Wagner that we often forget: it’s not just mercenaries or assassins. There’s also all this propaganda activity, cyber influence.

Making propaganda, interfering in elections, is another type of terrorist activity, less visible but just as dangerous.Dominique Simonnet, journalist specializing in American politics

The United States knows this aspect well, because according to American intelligence, Wagner influenced the results of the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms.

(Reread): anti-French video in Africa: “Wagner is on a proselytizing approach”

Making propaganda, interfering in elections, etc. is another type of terrorist activity, less visible but just as dangerous. Today, this is no longer just a war of opinions: we argue facts! Truth becomes arbitrary, so it’s important to say something, both for decision makers and heads of state and for citizens: these organizations commit crimes, some of which are war crimes or even genocide – and it is our mission to catch up and stop them .

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