War in Ukraine: Italy accuses paramilitary group Wagner of using migrants to punish Ukraine supporters

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

“Just as the EU, NATO and the West have realized that cyberattacks are part of the global confrontation that the war in Ukraine has opened up, they should now understand that the front over southern Europe is becoming every day more dangerous,” he continued.

And to warn that “uncontrolled and continuous immigration (…) becomes a means of hitting the most exposed countries, first and foremost Italy, and their geostrategic choices”.

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.

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”.

The far right won the elections in September 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.

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