Russian state-owned energy monopolist Gazprom is creating its own private military company, Ukraine's Defense Ministry Intelligence Directorate reported on Feb. 7, citing the decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
“Hence, Russia’s ‘arms race’ continues among the main political players, who are actively creating private armies, following the example of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private military company Wagner,” the statement reads.
The Wagner Group, Russia’s most high-profile state-controlled mercenary group founded by Russian oligarch Prigozhin, participates in the war against Ukraine alongside the regular Russian army.
Wagner has been accused of human rights abuses such as torture and extrajudicial killings in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mozambique.
Ukraine’s parliament recognized Wagner as an international criminal organization and called on foreign governments to do the same on Feb. 6.
Earlier on Jan. 26, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Wagner as a “significant transnational criminal organization” and imposed sanctions on its support network worldwide.
“Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic and Mali,” the Treasury said.