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Mercenaries address a collective appeal to the International Criminal Court, asking for war crimes charges against PMC organizers in Russia

Meduza

Frustrated with the stalled effort to legalize private military companies, a group of Russian mercenaries and military veterans is asking the International Criminal Court to prosecute Russia’s PMC organizers and facilitators for war crimes. Evgeny Shabaev, the chairman of the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly, told Radio Svoboda on November 19 that the initiative has the support of 357 delegates from 52 regions across the country, representing 18 different social groups.

According to the appeal to the ICC, Russian private military companies have suffered hundreds of casualties in recent years, despite the fact that the Federation Council denies the existence of Russian mercenary groups, and the Defense Ministry says officially that PMCs are banned by the Constitution. Russian mercenary veterans, meanwhile, say they’ve seen combat in eastern Ukraine, Libya, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Sudan, Yemen, and other countries in Asia and Africa. Specifically, the officers’ group wants Russian PMC leaders prosecuted for the “enforced disappearance of persons” (i.e., illegal imprisonment).

Why are mercenary vets trying to get their own industry prosecuted? Russian soldiers of fortune have complained for years that their profession is kept in legal limbo (technically illegal, but supported in practice) so they can be denied the benefits and honors awarded to military personnel, and also prosecuted, if they go running their mouths about covert operations abroad. For instance, Sergey Kirvenko, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, told Radio Svoboda that he supports the ICC appeal because lawmakers have treated mercenaries unjustly, he says, by refusing to legalize their work.