Putin says Russian private military companies have ‘the right’ to operate ‘anywhere the world’ (though they're technically unconstitutional in Russia)
During his annual end-of-the-year press conference, Vladimir Putin was asked to comment on the activities of Evgeny Prigozhin’s “Wagner” private military company. “All my cooks are Federal Protective Service agents,” the president said about Prigozhin, a catering magnate. “I don’t have any other cooks.”
Without mentioning Wagner by name, Putin argued that the company “has the right to pursue its business interests anywhere in the world,” so long as it does so legally. The president said this, despite the fact that private military companies in Russia are currently classified as “mercenary groups,” which are banned by the Constitution. (Last month, Russian mercenaries and military veterans even asked the International Criminal Court to prosecute Russia’s PMC organizers and facilitators for war crimes, in an effort to pressure Russian officials into legalizing the industry.)
Asked about the murder of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic on July 30 (who died while investigating the Wagner PMC’s local operations), the president expressed his condolences, but noted that the reporters traveled to the country as tourists, without notifying the proper authorities.