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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Dominic McGrath

Prigozhin death may offer opportunities to tackle Wagner Group – Foreign Office

The Government said it has re-examined the “extent and scale” of its intelligence work on the Wagner Group, following a critical report by MPs.

The Foreign Office also said that the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin may offer “new opportunities” to tackle the group.

The private military firm, whose former leader was killed in a plane crash over the summer, was proscribed as a terrorist group in September after the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee warned that ministers were not doing enough to counter the threat it posed.

In a response to the committee’s report, published on Monday, ministers backed or partially agreed with the vast majority of MPs’ recommendations.

It confirmed that a cross-government taskforce on the group had been created and told MPs: “We agree with the committee that intelligence gathering on Wagner’s activities is a priority and have re-examined the extent and scale of our effort.

“We believe that we have sufficient resources in place to track Wagner. Wagner is multi-layered, complex and dynamic. We regularly assess the group and its impact. We are also in close contact with international partners, academics and think tanks, and access a wide range of open and closed source reporting in order to inform our approach to countering the organisation.

“Given the fast-moving nature of events surrounding Wagner, that body of work is being continually refreshed, most recently in light of the June mutiny and the demise of Wagner’s senior leaders.”

The Foreign Office also said it had “dedicated new resource to containing and countering Wagner” and other Russian private military companies, while also working with allies to “maximise our collective impact”.

The report by MPs came after Mr Prigozhin and his troops staged a short-lived coup against the authorities in Moscow, putting the group foul of Russia leader Vladimir Putin.

The Foreign Affairs Committee had urged the Government to use the uncertainty to “disrupt” the Wagner Group.

In response, the Foreign Office said that the death of the Wagner kingpin had the possibility to create “new opportunities” to tackle the group.

Steps to counter this ruthless group are welcome – but there is still more to be done
— Alicia Kearns, Foreign Affairs Committee chair

Officials said that the Government was using its “overseas network and strategic communications channels to highlight Wagner’s human rights abuses and its destabilising role. We have also stepped up our assessment and policy co-ordination with Western and regional partners”.

“We plan to continue these activities following Prigozhin’s death – an event that may create new opportunities.”

The Government has also concluded that the Wagner Group has been linked to “serious acts of violence and damage to property while working in a variety of African countries, demonstrating Wagner’s broader involvement in terrorism”.

Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns praised the “positive” response from the Government.

“Efforts to counter the Wagner Network have stepped up in recent months, and we are pleased that the Foreign Affairs Committee has been able to contribute to this work,” she said.

“Private military companies (PMCs) are a clear threat to global security and the rules-based international order. The proliferation of the Wagner Network across four continents should be a wake-up call for the UK Government: for too long we have underestimated and neglected this group, and the issue of PMCs more broadly.”

She added: “The crimes committed by the Wagner Network fall heaviest on innocent people in territories where Wagner maintains control for corrupt elites. Steps to counter this ruthless group are welcome – but there is still more to be done.”

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