Put the "Wagner Group" on the Foreign Terror List
They are called "Putin's Assassins" and "Putin's Private Army," but whatever the name, the so-called "Wagner Group" is a cold-blooded mercenary group of 20,000-plus murderers, prisoners and psychopaths. It is long overdue that the US put the group and its members on the US Foreign Terror Watchlist.
Founded in 2014 by two military cronies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, an oligarch and former petty criminal named Yevgeny Prigozhin and a retired Russian army colonel named Dmitry Utkin, the Wagner Group was named after composer Richard Wagner - supposedly because he was the favored musician of the Nazi German leadership in World War II.
Putin deployed Wagner to conquer Crimea in 2014 - to brutally occupy the area, and to give Putin "plausible deniability" and claim that the local people of Crimea really wanted to be conquered by Russia.
The Group's tactics are always brutal and ruthless: Rapes, murders of children and the elderly; torture of civilians; the destruction of civilian neighborhoods; and gleeful use of terror are their methods.
As Putin has used Wagner more and more for his "dirty work," the organization has increasingly become a "state within a state" playing a political role - independent of the government - within Russia; and a weapon of terror to be unleashed by Putin for foreign intervention.
With Putin's invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022, Wagner became a major force occupying conquered cities and regions. Wagner recruited convicted murderers and rapists from Russia's prisons. With the worst criminal scum, Wagner mercenaries inflicted the most horrific abuses on Ukrainian civilians. But when global human rights groups decry the rapes, torture and murders, Putin shrugs and says they are an independent local group.
As a military group, Wagner is breathtakingly ineffective. Murderers, rapists, hit men, and drug dealers do not make the best soldiers. But they are adept at crime and terror. Wagner even tried - over a dozen times - to assassinate Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Thankfully, all attempts failed.
International human rights groups have argued for years that Wagner should be on the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations List. That means that the group and its members are banned from international travel or entry into the US - and its bank accounts are frozen. It seems a no-brainer, but the Biden administration has inexplicably refused to take that step.
The new US Congress should force the issue: Hold hearings and pass legislation to ban Wagner and its legions of murderers and terrorists. Right now, a Wagner thug could board an airplane and fly right to New York or Washington. That is a disgrace and clear threat to the security of America. The US should designate Wagner and its members as foreign terrorists, with the full force of law and intelligence backing it.