A resolution calling on France and the EU to work towards listing the Wagner group as a terrorist organisation, which is reportedly guilty of multiple crimes in Ukraine and Africa, was adopted by the French National Assembly on Tuesday.
The resolution, tabled by the Renaissance and Modem groups (presidential majority), and co-signed by some Socialist, Ecologist, Horizons and right-wing (Les Républicains) MPs, was adopted unanimously, with 331 votes in favour.
“To support our democratic values, our hemicycle knows how to come together”, said the author of the resolution Benjamin Haddad (Renaissance), before the vote.
The text adopted by the French deputies also refers to the group’s activity “via affiliated front companies” to carry out “influence and disinformation operations”, which aims to both “destabilise African authorities” to “replace them with others favourable to its cause”, and to fuel anti-French sentiment.
The resolution states that the private military company Wagner Group, headed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been accused of committing abuses in Ukraine, Syria and various African countries since it was founded in 2014.
In Ukraine, the group of mercenaries has been “accused of multiple war crimes” the resolution continues, citing the bombing of places inhabited by civilians, but also torture, sexual violence and executions, such as the Bucha massacres.
The authors add that all these accusations have been confirmed by German intelligence.
The French National Assembly is thus following in the footsteps of the Lithuanian parliament, which has already adopted a similar resolution.
The EU has added the leaders of Wagner to the list of individuals and entities sanctioned for “active participation in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine”. But “only 11 members of the Wagner group” are currently sanctioned by the EU, said Haddad in the Assembly gallery during the debate.
However, he said, the group had 9,000 members worldwide and was deploying almost 50,000 troops in Ukraine.
All political groups in the National Assembly supported and voted in favour of the resolution.
However, the radical-left group La France Insoumise showed some circumspection towards this text. On behalf of her colleagues, MP Ersilia Soudais said that “the vagueness” of the term “terrorist” leaves her group “doubtful”.
While LFI “unanimously condemns all war crimes”, she explained that she refused to “support a variable geometry indignation”, as western private military companies are excluded from the wording, judging that “France must put its own house in order”.
For the MoDem group, MP Frédéric Petit (representing the French living in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine) considered that the resolution was important although not legally binding, because “it is only law, yes, but it is law, and it is our weapon”. Indeed, “the Wagner group is a threat to our model,” he added.
“To abstain, to vote against, would be to choose the side of a dictator”, said right-wing sovereignist MP Emmanuelle Ménard (independent).
Foreign Affairs Committee chair Jean-Louis Bourlanges (MoDem) said Wagner’s actions reveal a “double drift”: on the one hand, they show that “violence is an instrument of communication”, which makes it terrorism, and on the other hand, the development of “mafia-like behaviour in international life”, to the detriment of states’ power, which he described as a “deadly drift for the international community”, he warned.
This resolution comes after a resolution recognising the Holodomor famine as genocide at the end of March when Russia denounced the “anti-Russian zeal” of the French National Assembly.
Another resolution is expected in the Assembly soon to condemn the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia after the French Senate recently adopted a text along the same lines.
(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr)
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