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Wagner: Scale of Russian mercenary mission in Libya uncovered

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A brand new BBC investigation has revealed the size of operations by a shadowy Russian mercenary group in Libya’s civil battle, which incorporates hyperlinks to battle crimes and the Russian army.

A Samsung pill left by a fighter for the Wagner group exposes its key function – in addition to traceable fighter codenames.

And the BBC has a “purchasing checklist” for state-of-the-art army gear which knowledgeable witnesses say might solely have come from Russian military provides.

Russia denies any hyperlinks to Wagner.

The group was first recognized in 2014 when it was backing pro-Russian separatists within the battle in japanese Ukraine. Since then, it has been concerned in areas together with Syria, Mozambique, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

Wagner’s fighters appeared in Libya in April 2019 once they joined the forces of a insurgent basic, Khalifa Haftar, after he launched an assault on the UN-backed authorities within the capital, Tripoli. The battle resulted in a ceasefire in October 2020.

The group is notoriously secretive, however the BBC has managed to realize uncommon entry to 2 former fighters. They revealed what kind of individual was becoming a member of Wagner – and its lack of any code of conduct.

There may be little doubt that they kill prisoners – one thing one ex-fighter freely admits. “No-one needs an additional mouth to feed.”

This helps different elements of the TV documentary – Haftar’s Russian Mercenaries: Contained in the Wagner Group – by BBC Information Arabic and BBC Information Russian. Its different revelations embrace proof of suspected battle crimes, together with the intentional killing of civilians.

One Libyan villager describes how he performed lifeless as his family have been killed. His testimony helped the BBC crew determine a suspected killer.

Describing one other potential battle crime, a Libyan authorities soldier additionally remembers how a comrade, his buddy, surrendered to Wagner fighters however was shot twice within the abdomen. The soldier has not seen him since, nor three different mates taken away on the similar time.

Phone image of dead relative

A Libyan villager reveals pictures of a relative who was killed. The villager says he survived himself by enjoying lifeless

The Samsung pc pill additionally supplies proof of the mercenaries’ involvement within the mining and booby-trapping of civilian areas.

Putting landmines with out marking them is a battle crime.

The revealing Samsung pill

The pill was left behind by an unknown Wagner fighter after the group’s fighters retreated from areas south of Tripoli in spring 2020.

Its contents embrace maps in Russian of the frontline, giving affirmation of Wagner’s important presence and an unprecedented perception into the group’s operations.

There may be drone footage and codenames of Wagner fighters, not less than one among whom the BBC believes it has recognized. The pill is now in a safe location.

Military maps on the Samsung tablet

Army maps in Russian on the Samsung pill

The ‘purchasing checklist’

A complete checklist of weapons and army gear is included in a 10-page doc dated 19 January 2020, given to the BBC by a Libyan intelligence supply and possibly recovered from a Wagner location.

The doc signifies who could also be funding and backing the operation. It lists materiel wanted for the “completion of army goals” – together with 4 tanks, a whole lot of Kalashnikov rifles and a state-of-the-art radar system.

A army analyst instructed the BBC that a number of the weapons expertise would solely be obtainable from the Russian army. One other knowledgeable, a specialist on the Wagner group, mentioned the checklist pointed to the involvement of Dmitry Utkin.

He’s the ex-Russian army intelligence man believed to have based Wagner and given it its identify (his personal former call-sign). The BBC tried to contact Dmitry Utkin however has obtained no reply.

And in our visible breakdown of the “purchasing checklist” and one other doc, the knowledgeable says the phrases Evro Polis and Common Director counsel the involvement of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman near President Vladimir Putin.

The US Treasury sanctioned Evro Polis in 2018, calling it a Russian firm contracted to “defend” Syrian oil fields that have been “owned or managed” by Mr Prigozhin.

Investigations by Western journalists have linked Mr Prigozhin to Wagner. He has at all times denied any hyperlink to Evro Polis or Wagner.

A spokesperson instructed the BBC that Yevgeny Prigozhin has nothing to do with Evro Polis or Wagner. Mr Prigozhin commented that he had not heard something on the violation of human rights in Libya by Russians: “I’m positive that that is an absolute lie.”

Russia’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs instructed the BBC it’s doing “its utmost to advertise a ceasefire and a political settlement to the disaster in Libya.”

The ministry added that particulars about Wagner in Libya are largely primarily based on “rigged knowledge” and have been aimed toward “discrediting Russia’s coverage” in Libya.

What’s Wagner? Its ex-fighters communicate

Formally, it doesn’t exist – however as much as 10,000 individuals are believed to have taken not less than one contract with Wagner because it emerged preventing alongside pro-Russian separatists in japanese Ukraine in 2014.

About 1,000 Wagner males are estimated to have fought with Gen Khalifa Haftar in Libya from 2019 to 2020.

The BBC in Russia requested one of many ex-fighters to explain Wagner. He replied: “It’s a construction, aimed toward selling the pursuits of the state past our nation’s borders.”

As for its fighters, he mentioned they have been both “professionals of battle”, individuals in search of a job, or romantics trying to serve their nation.

The opposite ex-fighter instructed the BBC there have been no clear guidelines of conduct. If a captured prisoner had no information to go on, or couldn’t work as a “slave”, then “the result’s apparent”.

Andrey Chuprygin, an knowledgeable working with the Russia Worldwide Council, mentioned the stance of the Russian authorities was – “allow them to be a part of this factor, and we’ll see what the result’s. If it really works out properly, we are able to use it to our benefit. If it seems badly, then we had nothing to do with it”.

Libya – a decade of turmoil

Downfall of Gaddafi in 2011: Col Muammar Gaddafi’s greater than 4 many years of rule finish in an Arab Spring rebellion. He tries to flee however is captured and killed

The nation splinters: After 2014, main competing factions emerge within the east and west

The advance on Tripoli in April 2019: Gen Haftar, chief of the japanese forces, advances on Tripoli and the UN-backed authorities there. Each side get army and diplomatic help from totally different regional powers, regardless of a UN arms embargo

Ceasefire in October 2020: Then in early 2021 a brand new unity authorities is chosen and sworn in, to take the nation to elections in December. Overseas fighters and mercenaries have been presupposed to have left, however 1000’s stay

Map of Libya

Map of Libya

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