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European Union Imposes Sanctions Russian Mercenary Company

In a press release of 12/13/2021, the European Union announced sanctions against the Russian company Grupo Wagner, a well-known private military company (private Military company, PMC’s) with strong connections with the Russian government.

Leading to the freezing of assets of eight individuals involved in the company’s actions, in addition to three related energy companies, the European Union published a note saying:

The individuals listed by the EU are involved in serious human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or in destabilising activities in some of the countries they operate in, including Libya, Syria, Ukraine (Donbas) and the Central African Republic. (…) . For these reasons the group constitutes a threat for the people in the countries were they are present, the wider region and for the European Union.

European Council, 12/13/2021
Wagner Group Mercenaries
Source: Pixabay

What is the Wagner Group: Russian Private Military Company

The Wagner Group, established in 2013, is composed primarily of former Russian combatants for military action. Participating in the conflicts in eastern Ukraine, Syria and with the intention of increasing its participation in sub-Saharan Africa.

The company gained notoriety after its involvement in destabilising Ukraine, the Libyan and Syrian civil wars, and its participation in hacking attacks on the United States presidential election. In addition, something that influenced the EU’s action was the intentions of Mali, a French colony, to hire the group to help in the regional fight against the Islamists.

Investigations say that the financier of the structure is the resident of St. Petersburg, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has close relations with the Russian president Vladimir Putin. He, however, denies any involvement, as does the Russian government.

In the list of sanctioned individuals there is the former lieutenant colonel of the Russian Intelligence Center (GRU), accused of participating as commander in the actions against Ukraine and one of the founders of the Wagner Group, Dmitry Utkin.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Russia can deny any involvement, but is not “fooling anyone”. Also Josep Borrell, head of EU External Policies, declared support and union to Ukraine and its sovereignty in this conflict.  

The use of PMCs (Private Military Companies) around the world

The private hiring of PMCs by countries in armed geopolitical conflicts has been growing in recent years.

As it is a management business training and formed by ex-military, they are used to guarantee security, from assets to physical combat. Therefore they are often seen simply as mercenary supply companies.

Its use is favorable to countries, since it is a group of mercenaries who replace the function of national soldiers and military. Thus, popular pressure, as occurred in the 70’s with the anti-war movement, is not of great influence because it does not involve the emotional of the population and the loss of family.

In addition, these mercenaries or “Contractors” are often much cheaper for countries than training and maintaining regular troops.

Thus, countries like Russia and the US are making use of these groups to establish their military actions and conflicts sem  major political complications.

But what happens with the Wagner Group is a Russian involvement in an already fragile geopolitical situation. Russia is in a delicate position, as the EU has declared support for Ukraine and says it is attentive to Russian decisions and is globally prepared to respond.

Therefore, the European sanction regarding the Wagner Group is another movement in the current political and global chess game of pressure together.


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