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From conscripts to Wagnerites. The government proposed to expand the composition of the peacekeepers, but did not explain who would get there

The government submitted to the State Duma a draft amendment to the law on peacekeeping activities. The authorities want to retroactively legitimize the presence in hot spots outside Russia of military personnel who do not have a contract with the Ministry of Defense. The expert says that this may be an attempt to legalize the participation in peacekeeping operations of “conscripts” or volunteers “disguised as PMCs.”

The government’s amendment changes Article 8 of Law 93-FZ, which regulates the rules for recruiting “military personnel” to participate in peacekeeping activities outside Russia. Peacekeepers under this article are recruited on a voluntary basis, after preliminary special training, and only from among the military – contract soldiers.

The government proposes to expand these opportunities – according to the bill introduced, any military man who has undergone special training can voluntarily join peacekeeping units.

Before the war with Ukraine, the Russian army consisted only of contract soldiers and conscripts serving on conscription. However, since the fall of 2022, all those mobilized (including those who have not signed a military service contract) have been equated with the status of military personnel by decree of Vladimir Putin, and by federal law – members of volunteer formations created by the Ministry of Defense at military units.

The government does not specify in the explanatory note which of these three categories the bill is aimed at and whether it allows including not only contract soldiers and conscripts, but also mobilized and volunteers into the peacekeeping forces.

At the same time, the government, without explaining the reasons, proposes to put the amendment introduced into the Duma into effect retroactively – from August 15, 2022. Most likely, the date the amendment comes into force means that the rules not yet enshrined in law have in fact already been implemented, and Russian conscripts or volunteers are already participating in peacekeeping operations.

Whom the Russian authorities consider peacekeepers

Sergei Krivenko, director of the Citizen. Army. Law human rights organization (declared a “foreign agent” in Russia), notes that special training for peacekeepers includes, among other things, training in the field of international law. But Russia interprets the concept of peacekeeping operations wider than the UN, which allows them to be implemented only by decision of the Security Council, Krivenko told the BBC.

Before the war in Ukraine, the Russian authorities sent peacekeepers to Africa by decision of the UN, while they called peacekeepers and the military, who were sent to Transnistria, Tajikistan, Abkhazia, Ossetia without a UN decision, he recalls.

Peacekeepers outside of Russia, the law allows you to send both “individual servicemen” and entire military formations. In the first case, the decision is made by the President, in the second – by the Federation Council at the proposal of the President. In both cases, these decisions should determine the area of ​​operations and tasks of the military, their subordination, length of stay and the procedure for replacement. And also – to establish additional guarantees and compensations for them and their families in accordance with federal laws.

Since laws can only be retroactive to improve the situation of those they target, it may be necessary to retroactively enact the amendment in order to pay new categories of peacekeepers.

In 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defense constantly publishes on its website information about the activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Russian peacekeepers are patrolling several routes there, escorting humanitarian convoys, and clearing mines.

On February 22, the department reported that there were 30 Russian observation posts in Nagorno-Karabakh and three ceasefire violations were recorded. And in total, since November 23, 2020, the Russian military, according to the Ministry of Defense, has cleared 2,511.4 hectares of territory, 689.5 km of roads, 1,940 buildings, and discovered and defused 26,765 explosive objects.

Can the Russian authorities call Wagner PMC fighters peacekeepers?

According to Krivenko, the Ministry of Defense is probably going to transfer all contract soldiers to the war in Ukraine and replace them in peacekeeping operations with conscripts – they are not sent to war yet, although the law does not prohibit this. However, according to the expert, the differences in the levels of training between contractors and conscripts are essentially leveled, “it is low for both.”

“Of course, the need for voluntary consent to participate in peacekeeping operations remains an advantage. But it is not difficult for the command to achieve such consent,” the expert says.

Krivenko also does not rule out that the new version of the law on peacekeepers, if adopted, may also include members of volunteer formations, which from November have the right to create the Ministry of Defense – including to perform tasks outside of Russia.

Such volunteers enter into short-term contracts with the Ministry of Defense, are provided with weapons, equipment and food in the military units to which their formations are assigned, and are equated in status with military personnel for the duration of their stay in volunteer formations, including the right to payments and social guarantees to their families.

Armed formations not controlled by the Russian authorities are prohibited by the laws of Russia. At the same time, the status of the Wagner PMC, which its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin calls a “private army” but at the same time publicly demands ammunition from the Ministry of Defense, has not yet been regulated by Russian law. At the same time, Wagner PMC operates not only in Ukraine, but is actively present in Africa and other hot spots.

Krivenko does not exclude that the amendment to the law on peacekeepers may be aimed at legalizing the participation in peacekeeping operations of both “conscripts” and “volunteers disguised as PMCs”.

In August, the German Die Welt wrote in the article “How Putin Survives the Germans from Mali” that Russia is ousting France and Germany from their priority countries of influence in Africa. “By August 18, the last French soldiers will leave the country. The Russians will move into the barracks they left behind.” “According to some reports, in addition to aircraft and helicopters, radars and anti-aircraft weapons were delivered from Russia to Mali,” the newspaper writes.

Judging by the proposed date for the bill to come into force – August 15, 2022 – it is possible that “conscripts” or volunteers are already participating in Russian peacekeeping operations – for example, in Nagorno-Karabakh or Africa, Krivenko argues.

Source : BBC