Prigozhin’s corporate network ‘aims at destabilising’ the …[ad_1]
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is at the helm of a corporate network which functions as "an instrument of information warfare", it has been claimed.
A testimony to the Foreign Affairs Committee by a former senior Russian army officer and Wagner operative who now lives in the West raised chilling allegations against Mr Prigozhin's corporate network.
The warlord, who controls not just the mercenary army but also a number of companies, had already been accused of attempting to interfere in the 2016 and 2018 US elections.
The anonymous source, whose testimony contributed to the "Guns for gold: the Wagner Network exposed" report by the committee, claimed when asked what could he say about the financier's corporate network: "In addition to being engaged in the implementation of business projects for profit, Prigozhin’s corporate network functions as an instrument of information warfare.
"Discrediting the Russian opposition, spreading disinformation and deep fakes in various Internet fora, aimed at destabilising the situation in Western democracies."
In September 2019, the US announced it would slap sanctions against Mr Prigozhin, accused of financing an internet troll factory that deployed social media campaigns in an attempt to influence the 2018 US midterm elections.
The US Treasury Department office of Foreign Assets Control, who stressed it didn't find evidence the vote counts or tally of votes had been disrupted as a consequence of the attempt, said at the time: "Today’s action targets four entities, seven individuals, three aircraft, and a yacht that are all associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and its financier, Yevgeniy Prigozhin."
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response, saying "stupid game of sanctions" had resulted from political turmoil in the US.
The source's claims also brought to light new information regarding the operations of the paramilitary Wagner Group, its long-standing association with the Russian Ministry of Defence and its inner workings.
Founded by Mr Prigozhin in 2014, the mercenary army has been deployed in various African countries and Syria before fighting for several months in Ukraine.
A fracture with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov brought Mr Prigozhin to launch a short-lived coup on June 23.
The report by the committee released on Wednesday outlines how dangerous Mr Prigozhin's Wagner Group is. It is also highly critical of the Government’s response to the threats the paramilitary entity poses.
The Committee said to have found that, for nearly 10 years, the Government has underplayed and underestimated the activities of Wagner, as well as the security implications for Europe and its significant expansion in Africa.
It also accused the government of being "remarkably complacent" about the growing practice of states using private military companies for malign purposes.
Hailing the work of the committee as a "landmark report", Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, said: "In the ten years since the Wagner Network’s formation, the UK Government has lacked a coherent strategy and efforts to meaningfully tackle Wagner have been non-existent.
"This has allowed the network to grow, spread its tentacles deep into Africa, and exploit countries on their knees due to conflict or instability. Where the West moves out, Wagner moves in, seeing opportunity in suffering and profit in chaos"
She also said: "If we are to undermine the operations of the Wagner Network, we need to sever the network’s wealth at its source.
"We are calling for the Government to sanction organisations and individuals known to prop up Wagner – faster and harder than before. We are unconvinced that the Government’s ‘sanction’ of the group truly captures the complex web of entities beneath it.
"In the wake of the attempted coup last month, the future manifestations of the Wagner Network are uncertain. With the network at its most vulnerable – and the clock ticking – the time for action is now."
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