Civilians lying in the streets, charred bodies, rapes, mass graves and deaths too numerous to count. Two similar carnage committed in recent weeks more than 4,600 kilometers away, in Africa and in Europe, and on which the same name hangs: 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 from the Malian armed forces – already guilty of numerous abuses when they were still cooperating with the French army – and men most likely belonging to the Russian private military company Wagner, deployed in the country since last year.
At the same time, Europe was horrified to discover the death left by the Russian army in Boutcha and in other places around kyiv, in the Ukraine. At least 320 people were killed and tortured, according to the mayor of the city. Selon le magazine Der SpiegelGerman intelligence services intercepted radio communications that established the involvement of Russian soldiers.
Based on this information, the Wagner Group took a “decisive part in the atrocities committed”. The British Ministry of Defense said March 28 that a thousand fighters from this group of mercenaries were going to be deployed in Ukraine. And at the end of February, the Times revealed that 400 of them had been sent to kyiv. assassinate President Volodomyr ZelenskY.
Moura and Boutcha join an already long list of ferocities committed by this army of mercenaries -whose existence is technically illegal in Russia- that unofficially carries out the low works of the Kremlin in Libya, in the Central African Republic or in Syria, for eight years now.
The Wagner Group was born precisely in Ukraine, in 2014, at the time of the conflict in 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 Russian special forces officer, covered in Nazi tattoos and an 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 beheadings
With at least 10,000 men passed through its ranks according to the bbc, this phantom army has been dispatched to all Russian-occupied theaters of operations in recent years. Mercenaries have played a crucial role in particular 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 colors.
In 2017, a video appeared on Russian social networks. We see several fighters beating a Syrian civilian with a sledgehammer. In other excerpts discovered in 2019, we see the same men dismember him with a shovel, decapitate him, and tie his body by the feet to set it on fire. It is the wrestlers themselves who film the scene, exchanging jokes in Russian about the soccer game they are about to play with their victim’s head. Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta he identifies one of them, who appears with his face uncovered: a Wagner recruit.
The group has been deployed on many other fronts, notably in Libya since April 2019, where it attacked the government of national unity (GNA) in Tripoli together with the forces of Marshal Haftar, then also supported by France. In 2020, mercenaries defeated, GNA soldiers find on the passage of the mercenaries mines and booby traps, booby trapssometimes placed in stuffed animals and toys
Nazi, Islamophobic and Racist Graffiti and “White Power” they are also discovered on the walls of a burned mosque in Ain Zara. GNA men captured during the fighting speak of summary executions carried out by Russian-speaking men. “No one wants one more mouth to feed”confirmed a former mercenary on the bbcin 2021.
Wagner’s violence spread to the rest of the African continent. Last year, a United Nations report delivered a damning finding about the methods of Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic (CAR), where Russia arrived in 2019 to fill the void left by the French army. The report speaks of executions of civilians, looting and attack on a mosque. he denounces “Arbitrary arrests, acts of torture, forced disappearances and summary executions” and adds that “Members of the Wagner Group allegedly committed rape and sexual violence against women, men and girls in many parts of the country”.
Demonstrations that do not stop the group’s combatants, especially since the UN group of experts for CAR has been suspended since August 2021, the renewal of its members having 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 Bria.600 kilometers east of the capital, Bangui.
Since 2017, the presence of mercenaries in Africa it just got bigger. They have been seen in Sudan, Mozambique and could soon make their appearance in Burkina Faso. Many of them have reportedly been recalled in recent weeks. to participate in the invasion of Ukrainewhere evidence of crimes committed by Russian forces accumulate at a frantic pace.
For eight years, his impunity has been almost total. In 2019, three independent Russian journalists investigating Wagner’s activities were killed in 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 dissolved by the Kremlin in January. And, not surprisingly, his legal action against Wagner was put in the closet from the following month.
in Libya, an arrest warrant was issued in August 2021 against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, for 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 stand in the Libyan elections a few months later, although this it was finally canceled.
Several people linked to Wagner, starting with Evgueni Prigojine himself, are the target of US, UK and European sanctions. The mercenaries, however, still seem capable of deploying at the gates of Europe and committing carnage there. Nothing seems to be able to stop Wagner. Or almost. In 2018, US aviation had killed almost a hundred fighters of the group while attacking an area controlled by Kurdish forces in Syria. The Kremlin, which refuses to admit the very existence of these mercenaries, had fallen into its own trap and refrained from any retaliation.