Russia Using Wagner Mercenaries to Weaponise Migration by Pushing Refugees to Europe, Claims Italy

TOPSHOT - A member of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner and former criminal prisoner s
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Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has blamed Russia’s Wagner group for an increase in illegal migrant arrivals, arguing the private military company (PMC) has links to traffickers in Libya.

Minister Tajani, who serves as Deputy Prime Minister and formerly served as President of the European Parliament, stated that PMC Wagner, a private military company present in North Africa and currently fighting in the Ukraine conflict, is linked to the surge of migrant arrivals in Italy this year.

“First of all, there is the news that is there for all to see: in a country without the control of a central authority like Libya, the mercenaries of Wagner after supporting one of the parties in the civil war of 2019 remained in many areas,” Tajani told Il Giornale and added, “We have indications that they are very active and in contact with gangs of traffickers and militiamen interested in the smuggling of migrants.”

“They are a decisive factor in Libya, but I know that the structural causes are a geopolitical crisis of proportions not seen in years,” he added.

Tajani listed several countries as sources for illegal migrants, including Tunisia, saying the country “is literally populated by sub-Saharan migrants who have almost invaded the country for weeks and who are preparing for a leap to Europe.”

The Italian minister’s comments come just weeks after Tunisian President Kais Saied stated that illegal immigration was a “criminal enterprise” aimed at changing the demographics of his country and replacing its “Arab-Muslim” character.

Minister Tajani is not the only Italian senior official to name PMC Wagner in connection with the surge of illegal arrivals, as Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also released a statement naming the group.

“I think it is now safe to say that the exponential increase in the migratory phenomenon departing from African shores is also, to a not insignificant extent, part of a clear strategy of hybrid warfare that the Wagner division is implementing, using its considerable weight in some African countries,” Crosetto said.

While Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has promised to declare war on people smugglers, the number of migrants arriving in Italy since the start of the year has tripled compared to the same period in 2022, with the Italian Interior Ministry stating over 17,000 have arrived illegally.

The weaponisation of migration flows in a hybrid warfare bid to destabilise Europe is an emerging tactic of Russia and its agents. 2021-22 saw a massive push of migrants onto its eastern border flowing through Belarus, a Russian puppet state. The Polish government said the effort was being artificially engineered by Belarussian authorities to cause chaos and divide the European Union.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)



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