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Alexander Kurennoi, November 2018

Russia's Attorney General says it's never been asked to investigate an infamous mercenary group, but oh it has

Source: Meduza
Alexander Kurennoi, November 2018
Alexander Kurennoi, November 2018
Sergey Savostyanov / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

The official line

“The Attorney General’s Office has received no official requests to review the actions of enterprises like the ‘Wagner’ private military company. If we receive such appeals, we will consider them according to established procedures, in strict accordance with the law,” said Alexander Kurennoi, the spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

This was the agency’s response to a statement by Vladimir Putin during his December 20 end-of-year press conference, when the president said the Attorney General’s Office “should make a legal assessment [...] if this ‘Wagner’ group has violated anything.”

The Attorney General’s Office has received at least one formal request to investigate the Wagner PMC

In August 2016, the magazine RBC published an investigative report by Ilya Rozhdestvensky about the Wagner PMC’s operations. Now a journalist at the website Proekt, Rozhdestvensky told Meduza that at least one man formally appealed to the Attorney General’s Office after the article was published. In the letter (a copy of which Meduza has obtained), the man says the RBC report describes illegal mercenary activity, and asks the agency to investigate the claims in the text and prosecute the author for making false allegations, if the information proves to be inaccurate.

Two official stamps on the document (one on August 31, 2016, and another on September 6, 2016) prove that it reached the Attorney General’s Office. On October 12, 2016, the appeal was referred to the Moscow District Attorney’s Office.

In December that year, RBC was notified that the four journalists responsible for its Wagner report — Ilya Rozhdestvensky, Polina Rusyaeva, Anton Baev, and Elizaveta Surnacheva — were the subjects of an Interior Ministry hate speech review. An officer from the ministry’s Anti-Extremism Center came to the RBC newsroom, produced a copy of the report sent to the Attorney General’s Office, and asked Rozhdestvensky, Rusyaeva, and Baev (Surnacheva no longer worked at RBC by this time) to submit written explanations for their actions. “Just write why you wrote this article,” the officer instructed them.

“And that was it. I don’t know the results of the inspection, but it’s been two years now, and nobody has bothered us again since then,” Rozhdestvensky told Meduza.

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Mikhail Zelensky and Irina Kravtsova

Translation by Kevin Rothrock