• The National Assembly votes on Tuesday on a text requesting the inclusion of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, accused of abuses in Ukraine and Africa, on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations.
  • The motion for a resolution tabled by Renaissance MP Benjamin Haddad targets the "numerous abuses against the civilian population" in Ukraine, committed by these mercenaries, some of whom could be qualified as "war crimes".
  • "20 Minutes" takes stock for you on this motion for a resolution thanks to the enlightenment of MP Benjamin Haddad at the origin of this text and Cécile Vaissié, university professor in Russian and Soviet studies at the University of Rennes-II.

Wagner's role in the war in Ukraine is increasingly in focus. On Tuesday, a new resolution calls for the classification as terrorist of this group of Russian mercenaries, accused of crimes in Ukraine as in Africa. Led by the Renaissance deputy of Paris, Benjamin Haddad, it aims to register this entity on the list of the European Union of terrorist organizations, in particular for its "many abuses 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 MP 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," says MP Benjamin Haddad, who initiated it. "First, a symbolic and political goal of naming things: this is a terrorist group that is slaughtering, misinforming and has made France its number one enemy in Africa in order to strengthen Russia's influence. The other objective is to significantly strengthen the financial, judicial and legal means to combat this group and its influence," the MP said. This resolution "is part of a framework, precise texts at the level of the European Union," says Cécile Vaissié, who adds that it is based on facts. Everything that is said in the draft resolution about Wagner's violence and the 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," says the university professor of Russian and Soviet studies at the University of Rennes-II. Thanks to this resolution, co-signed by MPs from different groups such as the PS, LR or the Greens, "we could imagine a new sanctions regime or target the entire ecosystem that allows the organization to operate," says Benjamin Haddad, president of the France-Ukraine friendship group.

What would it change for Ukraine?

"The European Union's anti-terrorism legislation can strengthen our means to fight against those of Wagner," says Benjamin Haddad. The Wagner paramilitary group is of crucial importance in the conflict in Ukraine. The mercenaries are at the heart of the key battle of Bakhmut and erect defensive lines to protect the occupied territories from a Ukrainian counteroffensive. And yet, "in Russia mercenaries are banned. The Wagner Group therefore has no legal existence, even in Russian law. A Ministry of Defense has a recognized legitimacy but Wagner's mercenaries do not even have one in the eyes of Russia, which, however, uses them and decorates them, "analyzes Cécile Vaissié. By designating Yevgeny Prigozhin's organization as terrorist, the European Union would therefore further delegitimize the group.

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," says Cécile Vaissié. More concretely, "special 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 Russia expert. The designation of Wagner as a terrorist group would therefore open the right to some form of reparation after the war.

What consequences could this have for Wagner's external operations?

The Wagner paramilitary group imposed itself by force, and often by barbarism, in many theatres of conflict around the world. Beyond Europe and the war in Ukraine, Wagner raged 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 "for several years operations of influence and disinformation 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". "This is a political issue, especially for the France which is being driven out of some African countries by the Wagner group," notes Cécile Vaissié. "The France started to worry about Wagner when his mercenaries arrived in Africa and started to jostle her in areas where we are traditionally present," she said.

"We must have a Europe that has the tools and instruments to protect its values and interests," said 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 send "a very clear message to the leaders" who appeal to this paramilitary organization, says Cécile Vaissié. "We can analyze this as a warning to African countries that use Wagner. Some African governments ask French forces to leave but they will be replaced by Wagner mercenaries, so 'terrorists'," says the professor at the University of Rennes-II. "It's a way of saying, 'You can't say you weren't warned,'" she says.

  • War in Ukraine
  • World
  • Wagner Group
  • Russia
  • Yevgeny Prigozhin
  • Terrorism