Leaked US army doc reveals Russia’s Wagner mercenary group tried to purchase weapons from NATO member
(CNN) A Russian paramilitary group preventing in Ukraine on behalf of Vladimir Putin tried to purchase weapons and gear from an unlikely supply: NATO member Turkey, in line with a leaked US intelligence document that was obtained by CNN.
The leaked doc seems to indicate the lengths the Russian non-public army group Wagner has gone to attempt to additional strengthen its capabilities because the struggle in Ukraine — during which it’s enjoying a key position — continues on with no indicators of abating.
As a NATO member, Turkey is broadly thought of a associate nation to the US and different international locations offering direct army assist to Ukraine and it has publicly expressed opposition to Russia’s invasion.
It is usually house to a significant US army base the place nuclear weapons are saved and act as an apparent warning signal to discourage Russian aggression towards NATO members.
In keeping with the US alerts intelligence reporting cited within the doc, personnel from the Wagner Group met with “Turkish contacts” in early February with the intent “to buy weapons and gear from Turkey” that would then be utilized by Wagner mercenaries who’re preventing alongside Russian forces in Ukraine.
It’s unclear who these “contacts” have been or if the Turkish authorities was conscious of the conferences. There is no such thing as a proof that exhibits that Turkey has moved ahead with any arms gross sales to the Wagner Group.
Nonetheless, the potential of a NATO ally promoting weapons to Russian mercenary forces would seemingly increase severe considerations in Washington and complicate Ankara’s relationship with different NATO members.
The main points concerning the February assembly, which have been outlined in a bit of the leaked doc titled, “Mali, Russia, Turkey: Vagner seeks weapons from Ankara,” counsel US officers consider the Russian mercenary outfit has not less than examined the waters.
In keeping with the leaked doc, Wagner additionally deliberate to make use of the weapons and gear from Turkey in Mali, the place the group maintains a major presence.
Not solely does the doc reference intelligence about Wagner looking for to buy weapons from Turkey, it additionally states that the paramilitary group deliberate to renew recruitment of prisoners from Russia’s jails.
CNN has not independently confirmed the veracity of the doc, however US officers have indicated that many of the leaked tranche are genuine. A State Division spokesperson stated the “the Division of Protection and the intelligence group are actively reviewing and assessing the validity” of the leaked paperwork, including “we aren’t able to substantiate or touch upon any particular data they include.”
CNN has reached out to the US Nationwide Safety Council, the workplace of the Turkish president and Turkey’s Embassy in Washington for touch upon the doc.
Turkey’s distinctive relationship with Russia
US officers have lengthy grappled with the sophisticated actuality of Turkey’s distinctive relationship with Moscow in comparison with that of different NATO members regardless of all being a part of the identical alliance designed to guard bordering nations from the potential risk of Russian enlargement.
The Turkish authorities has expressed its opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, in contrast to many NATO allies, it has maintained shut ties to the federal government in Moscow.
At occasions, the Turkish authorities has used these ties to push the Russian authorities to finish the struggle, together with final week, when Turkish Overseas Minister Mevlut Cavasoglu met together with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Ankara.
The Turkish authorities served as one of many brokers of a deal to permit Ukrainian grain to transit safely by way of the Black Sea with out Russian risk.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has beforehand positioned himself as a dealer within the Russia-Ukraine battle. In January, Erdogan held separate calls with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
He instructed Zelensky that Turkey was able to undertake a mediator and facilitator position for lasting peace between the international locations and that it may facilitate diplomatic efforts relating to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant, a Turkish authorities readout of the decision stated.
In his name with Putin, Erdogan instructed him that requires peace and negotiations must be supported by a unilateral declaration of ceasefire and a imaginative and prescient of “a good answer.”
Putin, nonetheless, instructed Erdogan that Moscow is open to “severe dialogue,” however Kyiv should settle for the “new territorial realities,” in line with a Kremlin assertion.
Representatives from the Wagner Group seem to have met with their Turkish contacts only one month after Erdogan’s calls with Putin and Zelensky happened, in line with the leaked Pentagon doc.
CIA Director Invoice Burns stated on Tuesday that his intelligence company assesses that Putin is “not severe about negotiations at this stage” of the struggle in Ukraine and it’s “Ukrainian progress on the battlefield that’s most certainly to form prospects for diplomacy” to finish the continued battle.
Talking publicly for the primary time since leaked categorised US army paperwork appeared on-line — together with assessments that forged a pessimistic viewpoint concerning the state of the struggle and predict a stalemate for the foreseeable future — Burns confused the significance Ukraine’s deliberate offensive, saying “a fantastic deal is at stake within the coming months.”
One other doc obtained by CNN cites alerts intelligence that Turkish firms have been aiding in sanctions evasion for one more key Putin ally: Belarus.
The US has sought to crack down on such efforts to evade sanctions, even by firms primarily based in US-allied international locations. On Wednesday, the US Treasury Division imposed sanctions of two Turkish firms which it stated are supporting Russia’s army industrial complicated in defiance of present sanctions.
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