I’ve gotten a lot of questions this week about #YevgenyPrigozhin’s public statement about his role as founder of the #WagnerGroup.The incoming is almost too much to handle so I thought I’d lay down a few thoughts here for journalists and other interested parties. 🧵 Image
1/#Prigozhin has had a kind of coming out party over the last few weeks with the buzz surrounding the release of a video showing him making a recruiting pitch to prisoners in a #Russian penal colony. The timing is, of course, curious. Image
2/We can get into the significance of the fact that the prison pictured is in the Mari El Republic in a separate thread--but suffice it to say there are a lot of stakeholders w/ overlapping interests co-located there. Image
3/Aside from the very obvious questions about the moral and legal implications of gang pressing prisoners into military service under dubious contractual terms, it begs two questions. Why now? What does it mean? Those are good ones for @UN_SPExperts @UN_HRC to ask & answer.
4/Given that before the start of the #Russia-UkraineWar #Prigozhin was often careful to avoid the camera his elevated profile seems odd. But Here’s a theory: leaning publicly into the Wagner Group mythos is still all about deniability for #Putin #Shoigu #GRU #MOD #FSB & #Russia Image
5/Trumpeting Wagner & Prigozhin's rogue status has the psychological effect of terrorizing potential targets of #Russian military ops & confusing rivals by misdirecting attention away from state responsibility. Image
6/Just as with the #LittleGreenMen & #ikhtamnyet charade in Crimea and Donbas in 2014, denying #Russia bears ultimate command responsibility for contract contingent fighters makes it easy to promote the idea that #Prigozhin is the singular mastermind behind their deployment. Image
7/Deniability & shifting command responsibility to #Prigozhin, a private citizen who does not hold an official state title, is critical given the high likelihood that #WagnerGroup contract soldiers are implicated in war crimes in #Bucha, #Irpin, #Motyzhyn, #Popasna, & #Izyum Image
8/The #Kremlin is betting big that the tangled web of firms and contracts that support contractor contingent operations will be impenetrable to investigators & international tribunals.But as I, @Jack_Mrgln,@alleyesonwagner, @CITeam_en, @bellingcat have all proven, it’s a bad bet Image
9/ The fact is, the idea that Wagner is purely, or primarily, a Prigozhin operation is laughable.
The evidence of #FSB orchestration #GRU input & #Kremlin oversight in #Wagner Group operations in #Ukraine #Syria #CAR #Libya #Mali is overwhelming. Image
10/The attempt to mask the operations of contingent contract fighters who work directly under orders of the #Russian state via contracts wholly owned by #MOD has only succeeded b/c U.S. & EU sanctions policy has failed.That also deserves its own thread; more on that later.
11/Misdirection works.No matter how you slice it #Prigozhin’s increasingly prominent public profile & claims of ownership are all about what in the parlance of #Russian military strategy is called reflexive control as Timothy Thomas notes. Image
12/His “admission” this week that he started #WagnerGroup in 2014 instantly would seem to eliminate questions about what other actual PMSC firms like Moran Security Group, RSB Group & other #Kremlin approved contract contingents are up to right now.
theguardian.com/world/2022/sep…
13/What #YevgenyPrigozhin is doing (again) quite well is changing the conversation about who is responsible for the actions of contracted combatants.While the world oggles images #WagnerGroup “musicians," we forget to ask the most important question: Cui bono? Who benefits? Image
14/The primary beneficiaries of #Prigozhin’s latest confessions & the sudden flood of cameo video appearances are those who also bear the responsibility for the actions of #Russian combatants. #Putin #Shoigu #Patrushev #Gerasimov et.al. Image
15/his is not to say that #Prigozhin does not have a stake.He clearly does.#Putin’sChef or no he is clearly an important part of the ongoing rebranding campaign that allowed #Russia until recently to conduct a stealth mobilization & do so with minimal political costs. Image
16/Indeed, as reported by the brilliant team .@meduza_en in this piece Prigozhin’s successful build out of the #WagnerGroup brand has made him an important asset for #Putin, even spawning rumors that he could replace Shoigu as head of MOD.
meduza.io/en/feature/202…
17/But as @NewFrontlines reported on the military-technical deal btwn #Russia & the #UAE that seeded #Wagner deployments to #Libya with dozens of #Pantsirs the logistical, financial, legal underpinnings of these deployments are wholly #Kremlin managed newamerica.org/future-frontli…
18/The real work ahead for the .​@ICC @CIJ_ICJ @UN & @GP_Ukraine is determining how to assess the role of #Russian contract fighters when assessing #IHL #IHRL international law on command responsibility.This is unlikely to be a question that can be resolved in #Ukraine. Image
19/The risk of inaction is too great.f the international community fails to recognize the precedent setting moment we are in when it comes to potential prosecution of so-called #WagnerGroup fighters, we should all be scared.
20/We have to ask ourselves:Are we ready to live in a world where states can simply airbrush away command responsibility for war crimes by posting a videos on Telegram or a couple paragraphs on Vkontakte? What could be the end result? 1 answer: more war. End🧵 Image

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