The mercenaries behind the Bucha massacre

German foreign intelligence recently intercepted classified messages confirming that Russian mercenaries known as the Wagner Group played a leading role in the massacre in Bucha, Ukraine. For those following the Wagner group, this was expected. In recent years, it has become Vladimir Putin’s weapon of choice because it offers plausible denial. Hiring mercenaries is a foolproof way to confound international laws that prohibit cruelty in war. The Wagner Group has left a trail of atrocities everywhere: Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Mali and now Ukraine. And other nations are following Moscow’s example.

It is impossible to say with certainty whether the Wagner group’s brutality is the work of renegade warriors or Russian politics, but it is plausible that it is the latter. Coercion and terror is a proven imperial strategy for pacification, from the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73) to the Second Chechen War (1999-2000), during which Mr. Putin leveled Grozny. When the fighting was over, the city looked like Stalingrad after the Nazi siege for five months – post-apocalyptic, with only skeletonized buildings and burned rubble burying the unknown dead. Immoral but effective, Putin’s bombing ended the war in Russia’s favour. The mercenaries behind the Bucha massacre

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