A UK-based law firm said a group of Ukrainian victims have taken the first legal step to sue Wagner Group over allegations that they commit “terrorism” in Ukraine.
The announcement came during an evidence-giving session at the UK parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, according to a statement from McCue Jury and Partners on Tuesday.
Known as a Russian private military company, Wagner Group has reportedly operated in Ukraine, Syria and Libya and some African countries including Mali and the Central African Republic.
The group has been targeted in the raft of sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries. Russia denies any links to the group.
“Whilst giving evidence to the Committee, we announced, as part of a broader civil society lawfare campaign to support the Ukrainian people, that Ukrainian victims had taken the initial step in launching a High Court action against Wagner seeking accountability and reparations,” the statement said.
“It was a fitting forum, in a historic heartland of democracy, at which to announce a challenge against a group that has no care for the rule of law or humanity. Ukrainians should be saluted for taking this brave stand.”
The firm said it was requested to give evidence before the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry on ‘The Wagner Group and beyond: Proxy Private Military Companies.’
“Our government is slowly but firmly catching up to the reality and horror of the use by rogue states of nefarious mercenary groups such as Wagner to pursue their—often illegal—foreign policy objectives.”
The current failure of the international community to effectively tackle “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s private army, Wagner, and its use of terrorism within his illegal war in Ukraine” is a striking example of that, the statement added.
“In such instances, the private sector and civil society need to fill the gap; some call this civil society lawfare.”
The firm also said it “served a letter before action on Yevgeny Prigozhin and the group of mercenaries he founded that use Wagner as their ‘nom de guerre’ (assumed name).”
The legal action is “predicated on an unlawful means conspiracy between Prigozhin, Wagner, and Putin’s war machine to terrorise the Ukrainian people.”
“We believe this is the first time in history that a Private Military Company has been sued for its use of terrorism and for a conspiracy with a rogue paymaster state to commit an illegal war.”
The firm added that the legal action could potentially change how the world addresses the proxy use of mercenaries and such armies, seeking to distance themselves and “hide from their international crimes.”
It said: “Wagner’s use of terrorism to achieve Putin’s goals is borne out through their war crimes, including the use of torture, murder, and rape as weapons of war to terrorise civilian populations into submission.
“Only a terrorist organisation such as Wagner would plant explosives around nuclear facilities.”
A “wider lawfare project, which includes this case, is developing similar legal actions in the UK and other jurisdictions around the world for Ukrainian victims and against further entities and individuals within the Russian war machine,” according to the law firm.
“The campaign intends to launch further action in the UK and the USA before Christmas,” the statement concluded.