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Wagner Group and proxy Private Military Companies to be examined by Foreign Affairs Committee

30 March 2022

Today, the Foreign Affairs Committee launches its inquiry into use of proxy Private Military Companies (PMCs), including the Wagner Group.

This inquiry will explore the challenge posed by states’ use of PMCs as proxies in conflict and to destabilise fragile countries, as well as the UK Government response.

The inquiry will focus particularly on the Wagner Group, which – while officially a PMC – has close ties to the Russian state and stands accused of some of the worst atrocities. The Group is playing an active role in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, but there is evidence its operations extend to other countries, including the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela and others.

This inquiry is part of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s programme of work on the “rules-based international order”: the international laws, rules and standards that affect our daily lives.

The deadline for written evidence is Tuesday 27 September 2022.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:

“Private military companies can operate as legal enablers of legitimate activity or in the shadows, blurring the lines between legal and illegal activities. Despite the threat their use can pose to peace and democracy worldwide, international law in this area is ambiguous and policing powers are limited.

Some of these private military companies, such as the Wagner Group, engage in ruthless mercenary activities at the behest of states like Russia, profiting through bloodshed and taking an active role in Ukraine and other countries.

This inquiry will ask what is currently known about ‘proxy’ private military companies, in particular the Wagner Group. It will explore international law in this area, and ask what more can be done to identify, track and sanction members of private military companies.”

The Committee welcomes written evidence on the following points: 

  • What is known about the Wagner Group’s operations, including its size, recruitment process, countries of operation (past, current and potential) and the nature of its partnerships with ‘host states’?
  • What other Private Military Companies (PMCs) have links to states that may be hostile to the United Kingdom’s values and interests (including Russia and China)? What is known about these PMCs’ operations and how they are regulated/used by sponsor states?
  • How are these companies financed? Where does their support really come from?
  • How is the UK Government responding to the challenge of PMCs that act as state proxies, including through disincentivising the use of PMCs by states? How effective is this approach?
  • What skills and capabilities exist in the FCDO and across Government, when it comes to identifying, tracking and (where relevant) sanctioning members of PMCs? What gaps are there?
  • How effectively do international law and UK national law govern and police the activities of PMCs? Does the existing ‘rules-based international order’ provide a response? Are updates required?
  • Generally, how do the activities of PMCs challenge the ‘rules-based international order’?

Form of written evidence: 

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain:

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Submissions should be arranged in numbered paragraphs.

Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence. 

Deadline for submissions 

The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by 10 am on 27 September 2022.                                                                                                   

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions. 

Diversity 

We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.

Further information

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