War in Ukraine: Rome accuses Wagner of using migrants to punish kyiv supporters

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto on Monday accused the Russian paramilitary group Wagner of encouraging illegal migration to Europe to punish European countries supporting Ukraine.

This Monday, March 13, Guido Crosetto, the Italian Defense Minister, accused Wagner, the paramilitary group, of promoting illegal migration to Europe, in retaliation for supporting Ukraine.

“The exponential increase in the phenomenon of migration from the African coasts is also part, to a non-negligible extent, of a clear strategy of hybrid warfare that the Wagner group (…) is implementing by using its significant weight in several African countries,” the minister said in a statement.

The latter announced that his country was on the front line in the face of this “uncontrolled and continuous immigration”. More than 20,000 migrants have landed in Italy since the start of the year, compared to around 6,000 over the same period in 2022 and 2021, according to the Interior Ministry. Most arrive from the North African coast in overloaded boats at the risk of their lives.

The Wagner group, whose boss Evguéni Prigojine is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is active in Ukraine but also in several African countries such as the Central African Republic and Mali.

An anti-migrant strategy

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani also expressed his concerns on Monday, on the sidelines of a trip to Israel, “because many migrants arrive from areas controlled by the Wagner group”.

As a reminder, the extreme right won the elections in September by defending a resolutely anti-migrant line and its leader, Giorgia Meloni, has since led the government.

Italy, a member of the EU and NATO, has been a firm supporter of Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, to which it provides military aid.