Last week the United States Department redesignated the PMC Wagner Group as a significant transnational criminal organization due to its personnel engaging in ongoing patterns of criminal activities, as well as committing crimes like mass executions, child abductions, and rape in the locales it has operated in. This is not the first time that the organization has been targeted for censure regarding its engagement in these activities either. Moreover it has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
Though the specific instances cited by the United States justifying this recategorization of the PMC Wagner Group include a limited number of crimes, the organization has operated in a number of places around the world. In Mali, Wagner Group contractors have been accused of having engaged in a range of horrific crimes alongside others, including executions, torture, sexual violence, and other similar acts against the population there since 2021. In Libya, the organization has been accused of committing war crimes, and of being involved in the mining and booby-trapping of civilian areas. Similar activities in the Central African Republic have been cited by the United Nations as well, with particular attention being directed to the groups participation in systematic human rights abuses, sexual violence, and violent harassment as well as intimidation against peacekeepers, aid workers, journalists and minorities in the country.
Unfortunately, it has only been since their involvement in Ukraine that the wider public have become gradually more aware of the actions PMC Wagner Group have been accused of regularly engaging in over the past decade. Such attention has gradually come about as information has come to light about the violence surrounding the group over the course of the war, such as three PMC Wagner Group mercenaries alleged to have tortured and killed civilians near Kyiv in April of 2022, and that mercenaries that are part of PMC Wagner Group may have been involved in the massacre of civilians in Bucha during March of this past year as well.
Despite these new efforts against the PMC Wagner Group, the organization supposedly has roughly 50,000 fighters under its command in Ukraine, making up an important part of the Russian effort there. The surge in membership, 80% of whom appear to be drawn from prisons, appears to be in part an effort to buttress Russia’s war effort in Ukraine following trouble recruiting Russian civilians for the regular army. Due to these numbers, and the past violent and illegal actions they have engaged in around the world, we can expect the declaration of the PMC Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization may have some impact on its operation, but that their ability to continue inflicting death and suffering on the people of Ukraine in the near future will endure.
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