A new investigation by the BBC has revealed the scale of operations of a shadowy Russian mercenary group in the Libyan civil war, which includes links to war crimes and the Russian military.
A Samsung tablet left by a fighter to the Wagner Group reveals his main role — as well as the names of his fighter codes that can be traced back.
The BBC has a “shopping list” of the latest military equipment that expert witnesses say can only come from Russian military supplies.
Russia denies any connection to Wagner.
The group was first identified in 2014 when it was supporting pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, it has been involved in regions including Syria, Mozambique, Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Wagner fighters appeared in Libya in April 2019 when they joined forces with Major General Khalifa Haftar after he launched an attack on the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli. The conflict ended with a ceasefire In October 2020.
The group is notoriously secretive, but the BBC has rare access to former fighters. They revealed what kind of person joins Wagner – and her lack of any code of conduct.
There is no doubt that they are killing prisoners – something one ex-combatant freely admits. “No one wants an extra mouth to feed.”
This is supported by other parts of the TV documentary – Haftar’s Russian Mercenaries: Inside the Wagner Group – from BBC News Arabic and BBC News Russia. What the commission uncovered includes evidence of suspected war crimes, including the premeditated killing of civilians.
A Libyan villager describes how he played the dead as his relatives were killed. His testimony helped the BBC team identify a suspected killer.
Describing another possible war crime, a Libyan soldier also recalls how his friend, his friend, surrendered to the Wagner fighters but was shot twice in the stomach. The soldier has not seen him since, and he has not killed three other friends at the same time.
The Samsung tablet also provides evidence of mercenaries’ involvement in mining and bomb-making in civilian areas.
Planting landmines indiscriminately is a war crime.
Samsung Tablet Detector
An unknown Wagner fighter left the board after the withdrawal of ISIS fighters from areas south of Tripoli in the spring of 2020.
Its contents include Russian-language maps of the frontline, confirming Wagner’s important presence and unprecedented insight into the group’s operations.
There are drone footage and code names of Wagner fighters, at least one of whom the BBC believes it has identified. The tablet is now in a safe place.
A comprehensive list of weapons and military equipment is included in a 10-page document dated January 19, 2020, provided by a Libyan intelligence source to the BBC, and may have been retrieved from the Wagner website.
The document indicates who may finance and support the operation. It lists the gear needed to “accomplish military objectives” – including four tanks, hundreds of Kalashnikovs, and an advanced radar system.
A military analyst told the BBC that some of the weapons technology would only be available from the Russian military. Another expert, who specializes in the Wagner Group, said that the list indicated the involvement of Dmitry Utkin.
He is a former GRU man who is believed to have founded and named the Wagner Company (his former call sign). The BBC tried to contact Dmitriy Utkin but received no response.
and in Visual division of the “shopping list” and other documentThe expert says that the words of Evro Polis and the general director indicate the involvement of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman close to President Vladimir Putin.
The US Treasury sanctioned Evro Polis in 2018, describing it as a Russian contractor “to protect” Syrian oil fields that were “owned or controlled” by Prigozhin.
Investigations by Western journalists linked Prigozhin to Wagner. He has always denied any connection with Evropolis or Wagner.
A BBC spokesman said Yevgeny Prigozhin had nothing to do with Evropolis or Wagner. Mr. Prigozhin commented that he had not heard anything about the Russians’ violation of human rights in Libya: “I am sure this is an absolute lie.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry told the BBC that it was “doing everything possible to promote a ceasefire and a political settlement of the crisis in Libya”.
The ministry added that the details about Wagner in Libya are mostly based on “false data” and are intended to “discredit Russian policy” in Libya.
What is Wagner? Her ex-fighters are talking
Officially, that doesn’t exist – but as many as 10,000 people are believed to have secured at least one contract with Wagner since it emerged fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
It is estimated that around 1,000 Wagner men fought with General Khalifa Haftar in Libya from 2019 to 2020.
The BBC in Russia asked a former combatant to describe Wagner. He replied, “It is an intention to promote the interests of the state beyond the borders of our country.”
As for its fighters, he said, they were either “war professionals,” people looking for work, or romantics looking to serve their homeland.
The other ex-combatant told the BBC there were no clear codes of conduct. If the captive prisoner had no knowledge to pass on, or could not work as a “slave,” then “the result is obvious.”
Andrei Choprygin, an expert working with the International Council of Russia, said that the position of the Russian government was – “Let them join this thing, and we will see what the result is. If it works, we can use it to an advantage. If it turns out to be bad, it has nothing to do with us.”
Libya – a decade of turmoil
The fall of Gaddafi in 2011: The end of the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi for more than four decades with the uprising of the Arab Spring. He tries to escape but is captured and killed
Country fragments: after, after 2014, the main rival factions appear in the east and west
The advance on Tripoli in April 2019: General Haftar, commander of the eastern forces, Progress in Tripoli and the UN-backed government there. get both sides Military and diplomatic support From different regional powers, despite the UN arms embargo
Ceasefire in October 2020: then in early 2021 A new unity government is chosen He was sworn in for the December elections. The foreign fighters and mercenaries were supposed to leave, but thousands remained