Ukraine's Office of the Prosecutor General has filed charges against Wagner mercenary group head Yevgeny Prigozhin. The organization is accused of war crimes in Ukraine, Syria and Mali. File Photo by EPA/Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool
Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office has filed charges against the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin, often referred to as "Putin's chef," in media reports, has been charged with violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine and waging a war of aggression against the country.
"The head of this PMC is directly responsible for thousands of war crimes. He openly admits his role in waging war against Ukraine and, with the permission of the Kremlin, solves personnel issues by recruiting tens of thousands of prisoners," said Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin.
Videos have emerged of Prigozhin recruiting fighters from inside Russian prisons.
Though he does not hold any official post in the Russian government, Prigozhin has become a powerful figure in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Wagner forces have spearheaded Russian assaults on Ukrainian cities in the eastern Donetsk region, including Soledar.
When Soledar was overrun by Russian forces, Prigozhin openly accused the Russian Ministry of Defense of trying to take credit for battlefield advances that he claimed Wagner was solely responsible for.
The Wagner mercenary group was designated as a "transnational criminal organization" by the United States in January. White House National Security Coordinator John Kirby accused Wagner of obtaining weapons from North Korea and showed satellite photos purporting to show trains being used for weapons transfers.
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the European Union would set up a center to investigate, and eventually try, war criminals in The Hague, during a meeting with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv Thursday.
Wagner is credibly accused of war crimes on multiple continents. In 2017 Wagner mercenaries killed and decapitated a defenseless Syrian man who had tried to avoid military service. The mercenaries uploaded video of themselves participating in the murder.
In 2022, Wagner forces, assisted by pro-government militia, massacred up to 300 civilians in the Malian village of Moura.
International investigators may have received an unexpected boost to their efforts in January, when a former Wagner commander, Andrei Medvedev, crossed the border from Russia into Norway and surrendered to Norwegian authorities.
Medvedev is applying for asylum and says he is willing to help investigators looking into crimes committed by Wagner.