HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesRussia: Russian lawmakers adopt resolution slamming French 'mercenaries' in Ukraine

Russia: Russian lawmakers adopt resolution slamming French ‘mercenaries’ in Ukraine

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The Russian parliament on Wednesday passed a resolution addressed to French lawmakers denouncing the alleged presence of French “mercenaries” in Ukraine, further escalating its confrontation with Paris.

The move follows days of escalating tensions between Moscow and Paris after Russia claimed, without evidence, to have killed a group of French mercenaries in Ukraine’s Kharkiv last week.

Moscow had last week summoned the French ambassador over what it said was France’s “growing involvement in the Ukraine conflict”.

France has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest allies during Moscow’s almost two-year offensive, and the Russian claims came after Paris announced it would send dozens of long-range missiles to Ukraine.

Paris has said that it has no mercenaries in Ukraine or “anywhere else” and that the Russian claims are part of a disinformation campaign.

“Despite the fact that Paris officially denies that French mercenaries are participating in the military conflict in Ukraine… objective information about losses in mercenary neo-Nazi units reliably indicates the opposite,” the Russian resolution read. “We should ask ourselves, our voters, who are we dealing with when we talk about France and the French?” it read. Moscow said it had “destroyed” a group of 60 French mercenaries in a strike on Kharkiv on January 17.

The Kremlin said Wednesday that it had “reliable information” there were French mercenaries in Ukraine but stopped short of providing details.

French inquiry urged

French law bans mercenaries, and fighting in a foreign conflict as a mercenary could result in a prison term of up to five years and a fine of 75,000 euros ($80,000).

While Russian officials have not provided lists or names of the people it alledged to have “destroyed” in Kharkiv, Russian social media accounts have published the names — picked up by pro-Kremlin media — of more than a dozen people.

According to a French diplomatic source, the identities could be false. Paris regularly accuses Moscow of disinformation campaigns.

Russia has claimed it has killed other European mercenaries in Ukraine but this is the first time its parliament has opted for such a resolution.

“We are against the fact the French Republic, that has for centuries had tight relations with the Russian Empire, with our state… is helping the Nazi regime in Ukraine,” nationalist politician Leonid Slutsky told the State Duma lower house of parliament.

“We demand that lawmakers of the [French] National Assembly take up the possibility of an investigation,” he said, calling on French security services to also get involved.

French security sources believe there are around 50 French people — mostly from the far right — who are fighting in Ukraine, some of whom have joined an international legion within Kyiv’s armed forces.

But they maintain that none of them were killed in the Kharkiv January 17 strike.

A Ukrainian security expert who knows several of the French members of Ukraine’s foreign legion also told AFP none of them were killed in Kharkiv.

“The people that I know are still alive and have not heard of any wounded” in Kharkiv, he said.

Ukraine had said that the Russian strike on Kharkiv on January 17 wounded a dozen civilians and damaged residential buildings.

France has for years accused Russian mercenaries with the Wagner group of crimes in Africa.

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