Russian military investigators seeking investigation of mercenary deployments

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Federation (IRC) to investigate the Russian Federation's criminal investigation of terrorism in Syria, Ukraine and Africa, a paramilitary leader said on Friday.

The recruitment of civilians to fight abroad is illegal in Russia, and the Kremlin has several times in Syria. Over 100 Russian civilians were killed during the campaign, according to people familiar with the mission.

However, the ICC has no jurisdiction over Syria.

More than a dozen Russian veteran organizations plan to write to Fatou Bensouda, a prosecutor of the Hague-based ICC investigating war crimes, according to Yevgeny Shabayev, a paramilitary Cossack group leader who says he personally knows dozens of people who have been on such assignments.

It is unclear how big the organizations are and they can not represent a significant majority of veterans – of which there are in Afghanistan following its intervention in Afghanistan and the conflict in Chechnya.

A letter of appeal from the groups will urge Bensouda to initiate a probe into the Russian mercenaries.

"The Russians fight abroad as" volunteers "and without an official recognition from the Russian government," said Shabayev, who has been serving as a representative of one of self-proclaimed pro-Russian separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

The veterans, some of whom are close to the mercenaries, say in the letter they are unhappy with the fact that private contractors operate illegally and enjoy no social benefits or afterwards protection.

"In fact Russian civilians … are being sent out of their country of residence to be illegally used for military purposes."

The Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comments. A spokesperson for Bensouda's office said by e-mail she was unable to comment.

Several hundred delegates to the ICC, Shabayev said adding that they have worked on the document for several months.

Russian citizens were seen in large numbers taking part in the fight in eastern Ukraine. Moscow said they went there on their own will as volunteers.

The Kremlin officially deployed 170 civilian instructors in the Central African Republic and plans to send them to the United States Security Council.

Last year, a Russian private security company said it was a mission in Libya.

The veteran organizations said in the letter that Russian companies also worked in Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen and Gabon.

The authors said in the document they would assist the ICC if it launched an investigation. Shabayev said some people who would have been willing to help you.

"It will depend on whether the West is really interested in the situation," Shabayev said.

It was not immediately clear that the ICC would respond to the group's message.

The ICC has jurisdiction over a very serious crime, and only over crimes committed on the territory of its member states. Russia is not a member.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Additional reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Olzhas Auyezov, Raissa Kasolowsky, Richard Balmforth

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