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5 Oct 2023


Russia: Mercenary group Wagner buys satellites for intelligence activities from Chinese co., new investigation shows

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre couldn't approach Beijing Yunze Technology Co. Ltd. over inability to find any publicly available contact information for the company]

Chinese firm sold satellites for intelligence to Russia's Wagner – Contract, 5 October 2023

Russian mercenary group Wagner in 2022 signed a contract with a Chinese firm to acquire two satellites and use their images, aiding its intelligence work as the organization sought to push Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to a document seen by AFP.

The contract was signed in November 2022, over half a year into Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in which the Wagner group under its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was playing a key role on the battlefield.

The satellite images were also used to assist Wagner's operations in Africa and even its failed mutiny in June which has led now to the de facto break up of the group followed by the death of Prigozhin and other key figures in an air crash in August, a European security source told AFP.

According to a contract seen by AFP written in English and Russian and signed on Nov. 15, 2022, the company Beijing Yunze Technology Co. Ltd. sold two high-resolution observation satellites belonging to the Chinese space giant Chang Guang Satellite Technology (CGST) to Nika-Frut, a company then part of Prigozhin's commercial empire.

The over $30 million (235 million yuan) price was for the satellites themselves and additional services.

The contract also provides for the provision of images on demand, which allowed Wagner to obtain satellite pictures both of Ukraine and areas in Africa where its mercenaries were active including Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali, the European security source told AFP, asking not to be named...

The European security source said that the contract with the Chinese firm was still active.

It provides for the acquisition of two Chinese satellites — JL-1 GF03D 12 and JL-1 GF03D 13 — which are in orbit at an altitude of 535 kilometers above the Earth.

In this contract, Wagner also acquired the right to bid for other satellite images from the network held by the Chinese operator CGST, which has around 100 satellites today and aims to reach 300 by 2025...