Wagner recognized as a terrorist group, what difference would that make?

Wagner’s role in the war in Ukraine is increasingly coming to light. This Tuesday, a new resolution calls for this group of Russian mercenaries, accused of crimes in Ukraine and in Africa, to be classified as terrorists. Carried by the Renaissance deputy from Paris, Benjamin Haddad, it aims to include this entity on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations, in particular for its “many atrocities against the civilian population in Ukraine”.

But what difference does it make to be classified as a terrorist organization? What consequences could this entail? 20 minutes takes stock for you with the deputy behind this project, Benjamin Haddad, and the university professor of Russian and Soviet studies at the University of Rennes-II, Cécile Vaissié.

Why call Wagner a terrorist group?

“There are two objectives to this resolution”, affirms the deputy Benjamin Haddad, at the origin of the latter. “First, a symbolic and political objective which consists in naming things: it is a terrorist group which massacres, misinforms and has made France its number one enemy in Africa in order to strengthen Russia’s influence. The other objective consists in considerably reinforcing the financial, judicial and legal means in order to fight against this group and its influence”, enumerates the deputy. This resolution “fits into a framework, precise texts at the level of the European Union, underlines Cécile Vaissié who adds that it is based on facts. Everything that is said in the draft resolution about Wagner’s violence and terror in relation to Ukraine and Syria is absolutely correct. »

“Wagner’s mercenaries absolutely do not respect the rules of war so, indeed, it is close to a terrorist organization”, analyzes the university professor in Russian and Soviet studies at the University of Rennes-II. Thanks to this resolution, co-signed by deputies from different groups such as the PS, LR or even the Greens, “we could imagine a new sanctions regime or target the entire ecosystem that allows the organization to operate”, explains Benjamin Haddad, president of the France-Ukraine friendship group.

What would it change for Ukraine?

“The anti-terrorist legislation of the European Union can make it possible to reinforce our means to fight against those of Wagner”, assures Benjamin Haddad. However, the paramilitary group Wagner is of crucial importance in the conflict in Ukraine. The mercenaries are at the heart of the key battle of Bakhmout and erect lines of defense to protect the occupied territories from a Ukrainian counter-offensive. And yet, “mercenaries are banned in Russia. The Wagner group therefore has no legal existence, even in Russian law. A Ministry of Defense has recognized legitimacy but Wagner’s mercenaries do not even have any in the eyes of Russia which, however, uses them and decorates them”, analyzes Cécile Vaissié. By qualifying Yevgeny Prigojine’s organization as terrorist, the European Union would therefore further delegitimize the group.

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This would be a symbolic victory for Ukraine. “The term terrorist would validate the idea that it is a war between an organized society and individuals who respect nothing” while Kiev “accuses Russia of being a terrorist state, whose worst representatives are Wagner’s mercenaries”, emphasizes Cécile Vaissié. More concretely, “specific sanctions can be taken against individuals who finance a terrorist organization and persons recognized as victims of terrorist acts are entitled to special compensation”, adds the expert from Russia. The designation of Wagner as a terrorist group would therefore open the right to a form of reparation after the war.

What consequences might this have for Wagner’s overseas operations?

The paramilitary group Wagner imposes itself by force, and often by barbarism, on many theaters of conflict in the world. Beyond Europe and the war in Ukraine, Wagner rages in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso and Madagascar. The resolution brought before the National Assembly deplores that the Wagner group has been carrying out “influence and disinformation operations there for several years in order to destabilize the authorities in place in several African countries and replace them with others favorable to its cause, also fueling anti-French sentiment. “It’s a political question, in particular for France, which sees itself driven out of certain African countries by the Wagner group”, notes Cécile Vaissié. “France began to worry about Wagner when his mercenaries arrived in Africa and began to push her on land where we are traditionally present,” she deciphers.

“We must have a Europe which has the tools and instruments to protect its values ​​and its interests”, emphasizes Benjamin Haddad, insisting on the importance of “European sovereignty”. While the influence of the Wagner nebula continues to grow on the African continent, the resolution would therefore send “a very clear message to the leaders” who appeal to this paramilitary organization, believes Cécile Vaissié. “We can analyze this as a warning to African countries that employ Wagner. Some African governments are asking the French forces to leave but they will be replaced by Wagner mercenaries, therefore “terrorists””, explains the professor at Rennes-II University. “It’s a way of saying, ‘You can’t say we didn’t warn you,'” she says.

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