Putin’s Party of Russian War Criminals Rolled Out for Summit

Ministry of Defence
4 min readAug 11, 2023

Last week Russia hosted the second Russia-Africa Summit in St.Petersburg. The summit which Russia states is an economic and humanitarian forum for peace, security and development was notable not just for the low turn out of African Heads of State- just 21 out of a possible 54; a drastic decline compared to 2019’s summit attended by 43 African leaders - but also the prominent role convicted and indicted Russian war criminals played at the summit.

Maria Lvova- Belova, indicted for war crimes

Indicted for war crimes Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova chaired a panel discussion at the Russia- Africa Summit in St.Petersburg. Lvova-Belova is currently indicted by the International Criminal Court, which have issued a warrant for her arrest relating to the war crimes of unlawful deportation of children, and the unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.

Lvova-Belova, is Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, and her arrest warrant was issued alongside one for Vladimir Putin, the country’s President, also charged with being allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful child deportation.

Ukrainian authorities claim that at least 19,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly deported to Russia or Russian temporarily controlled territory by Russian authorities since the illegal invasion of Ukraine began. Earlier this year Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab reported how Ukrainian children have been relocated to a network of re-education camps in illegally annexed Crimea and mainland Russia- where the intention is to strip the children of their Ukrainian culture, heritage, language and expose them to Russia-centric academic, cultural and military education.

The UK have joined with other countries around the world, including many African States, in calling for the immediate return of all affected Ukrainian children.

Viktor Bout, convicted arms dealer

Viktor Bout is a convicted arms dealer to terrorist groups and has been linked to some of Africa’s most devastating conflicts in recent years. Bout was invited to the Russia-Africa Summit in St.Petersburg to be a panellist in one of the discussions at the forum.

Bout was found guilty of conspiracy to kill Americans and US officials, delivering anti-aircraft missiles and aiding a terrorist organisation. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his crimes in April 2012.

In addition, the UN have named him as an associate of former Liberian President Charles Taylor- who was convicted in 2012 on charges of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.

It is also alleged he has supplied arms to both sides in Angola’s civil war and supplied weapons to Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Libya.

Bout was released from US custody in December 2022 in a prisoner exchange. Seven months later Bout was attending the Russia-Africa summit.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, internationally-sanctioned mercenary boss and ‘exiled traitor’

The sanctioned mercenary boss was spotted in St.Petersburg, during the Russia-Africa summit having meetings with visiting dignitaries on the fringes of the event, despite being publicly exiled from Russia by Putin.

Prigozhin is the founder of the private military company Wagner, which has been in operation since 2014. Whilst the Kremlin had previously maintained a plausible deniability over Wagner and its actions, in June President Putin announced that Wagner was fully funded by the state.

Wagner and its fighters have been active in multiple conflicts around the world, most notably Ukraine, Syria, Mali, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic and several other African states.

The UN has expressed concerns around grave human rights abuses involving Wagner and Russian-speaking fighters in Mali and the Central African Republic.

A Human Rights Watch [HRW] report found compelling evidence that Wagner fighters have committed grave abuses against civilians in the Central African Republic with complete impunity since 2019.

A further HRW investigation found evidence of Russian mercenary involvement in the execution of 300 people in central Mali in March 2023.

Prigozhin was sanctioned by the UK in 2020 over Wagner’s activities in Africa, the EU have added the Wagner Group to their sanctions list whilst the US have placed sanctions on the Wagner Group and Prigozhin under multiple authorities.

On 24 June 2023, Prigozhin staged an apparent insurrection, sending an armoured convoy towards Moscow.

Putin accused Prigozhin of treason and said the armed rebellion was ‘a stab in the back of our country’. Prigozhin was then exiled by the Russian president, and fled to Belarus.

Following the short-lived mutiny, Prigozhin has said Wagner would stay active in Africa. The Wagner leader was then reported to have then been spotted in St.Petersburg during the Russia-Africa summit, meeting with visiting officials, despite officially being exiled from Russia.



Ministry of Defence

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