Russia-Ukraine, the dirty (and forbidden) blows of the soldiers of fortune

Of Francesco Battistini

The 2015 Minsk agreements called for the “withdrawal of foreign mercenaries” but that point was never respected.

KIEV – Those shots in the dark. The only thing that is known. Sunday night at the Mariupol border, near a café in Hranitne, a group of Greeks comes under fire. “Shots from the Ukrainian army,” says the Athens government. Not at all: a banal brawl, they specify from Kiev, people who “have nothing to do with the conflict”. Who is lying? Whatever happened, no one is too surprised. Because the great war of the armies is still frozen, but the secret of the soldiers of fortune has always continued. The 2015 Minsk agreements, under point 10, expressly required the “withdrawal of foreign mercenaries”. In recent years, it has been the least respected article of that peace document. In recent months, it has been the red thread of the new crisis: according to the intelligence cited by the Reutersa former Gru officer – the Russian military secret services – has been moving to Ukraine for some time and coordinates in person Putin’s lansquenets and acts as a terminal for the men of Wagner, the group famous for the Kremlin campaigns in Africa as in South America; according to the agency Sputnik of Moscow, the Ukrainians have struck an agreement with the contractors of the private company Lancaster-6 based in Dubai and with Blackwater, the Virginia mercenary factory now called Academi and which became famous in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Everyone knows they are there – says a European diplomat in Kiev – even if few have any idea how many there are. Thousands, for sure. But in these days of talks at the highest level between leaders, it is the only issue that no one touches ».

When Americans speak of “false flags”, targeted provocations in the diplomatic darkness, it is above all to pirate flag of the thinking mercenaries. The pretext to invade, the spark that can ignite everything. Cyber-attacks, gas and light sabotage, gunshots that justify a military intervention by the Kremlin. Wagner’s paid soldiers they presented themselves to the world and occupied Crimea in 2014 without banners or badges, avoiding firing a shot. This time I’m already here, Kiev accuses, and with a completely different strategy: along the border, they use 120 mortars to violate the ceasefire. Ukrainian geeks, careful to spy on air traffic in Russia, have recorded an increase in flights from Libya and Central Africa, where Wagner and another Russian company – Sewa Security Services – have their troops. In the Czech Republic, in Ostrava, months ago a “consulate” of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk had to be closed. he was recruiting mercenaries for $ 5,000 a month. And even Putin’s closest friends, the Belarusians who host the military exercises, had to expel about thirty Moscow contractors who poked their nose a little too hard into Lukashenko’s affairs. “Wagner is a private organization and has nothing to do with Russia” is the line of the Kremlin. True: it belongs to Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch very close to Putin. And his strategist, Dimitrij Utkin, is a former Ukrainian colonel: who better than him, for an invasion of the Donbass?

On the other hand, they are not watching: “The hundreds of NATO” instructors “are actually employees of Blackwater,” denounces the pro-Russian leader of the Lugansk secessionists, Leonid Pasechnik. In Ukraine, according to the OSCE, the US has invested $ 7 billion in weapons, training and “other military activities”. On February 23, 2020, the Russians said, there was a dinner in Kiev between the patron of Blackwater, Erik Prince, brother of a Trump minister, and Zelensky’s entourage. This Prince had come to take care of security for Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York on a mission, later involved in the Ukraine-gate. It was a discreet evening, in a secluded karaoke room at the Vodka Grill. “Ideal to define an exchange: mercenaries against arms contracts.” Since then, Moscow says, many Ukrainian paramilitary groups such as Azov Battalion have filled with “advisers” from all over the world. And the weapons are no longer counted.

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