(NewsGlobal.com)- It sounds like the next James Bond thriller.
A malevolent caterer is at the head of a group of Russian mercenaries, and the CIA claims to be helping the resistance fight back.
During a public hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today, CIA Director Bill Burns stated that the agency is doing everything possible to counter the Wagner Group, a major supporter of the Kremlin and a private military contractor whose troops may be found in battles as far-flung as Africa and as domestic as Ukraine.
Burns noted that much of the fighting in the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is being led by the mercenary force whose leader is Yevgeniy Prigozhin.
Prigozhin rose to fame in Russia as a catering magnate from St. Petersburg.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the Wagner Group to West Africa and the Sahel to function as a shadow army for the Kremlin and fight alongside national governments in many unresolvable conflicts. Federal politicians and militia commanders have publicly seen the mercenary organization, and its members have been accused of rape and torture.
With the support of the French government (a former colonial power in the area) and other allied governments, the CIA is working hard to oppose Wagner and its activities.
At the hearing, Burns said they work as an agency, working with partners to help many of those countries, and our security service partners oppose them. However, he did not detail how exactly this assistance was provided.
Prigozhin emerged in a significant military role in the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, frequently appearing in military garb in eastern Donbas, the primary combat location in the conflict. He is among the many Russian politicians who have come and gone since Putin took power.
An analyst on the mercenary group and director of research for an intelligence consulting business, Colin P. Clarke, said he isn’t shocked by the CIA director’s statement that the agency is responding to Wagner. Despite this, he told the Biden administration “more generally lacks a cohesive plan to deal with” the organization and should do more to combat it.
The number of those calling for the United States government to recognize Wagner as a terrorist organization on par with ISIS and al-Qaeda is rising. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in early March that he would not “object” to the designation of Prigozhin’s mercenary group. Wagner’s ability to participate in the global market and other legal sanctions and African activities would be severely hampered if they were designated as a terrorist organization.