Kremlin dismisses report on Wagner plan to give Hezbollah air defense system

Spokesperson says US intel 'based on nothing,' urges Washington to use emergency communication channels with Russian military ‘if there are real concerns about something’
The Kremlin on Friday dismissed a Wall Street Journal report that U.S. intelligence believed Russia's Wagner mercenary group plans to provide Hezbollah with an air defense system, saying such talk was unfounded.
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"We have already said that, de facto, such a group (Wagner) does not exist," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, when asked about the report, which cited unidentified U.S. officials as saying that U.S. intelligence thinks Wagner plans such a transfer.
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SA-22 SA22 טיל נ"מ פנציר תערוכת נשק רוסיה 2013
SA-22 SA22 טיל נ"מ פנציר תערוכת נשק רוסיה 2013
SA-22 Pantsir air defense system
(Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
"All of these musings are as a rule based on nothing and have no foundation," Peskov said when asked about the report.
"There are emergency channels of communication between the (Russian and U.S.) militaries, and if there are real concerns about something, they (the Americans) can always convey them to our military."
In its report, the Journal said Wagner plans to supply the Pantsir-S1 system, known by NATO as the SA-22, which uses anti-aircraft missiles and air-defense guns to intercept aircraft.
Wagner Group, which was funded by the Russian state and has been brought firmly under Kremlin control since an aborted mutiny by its former leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in June, did not reply to a request for comment from Reuters.
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הלווית מחבלי חיזבאללה בלבנון
הלווית מחבלי חיזבאללה בלבנון
(Photo: REUTERS/Amr Alfiky)
Putin and the Kremlin have repeatedly said that there is no legal basis for Wagner under the law, which bans mercenary groups inside Russia, though in late September Putin was shown meeting one of the most senior former commanders of the group.
One unidentified U.S. official quoted by the Journal said that Washington had not confirmed that the air defense system had been sent. But U.S. officials are monitoring discussions involving Wagner and Hezbollah, the Journal said.
The Journal said that the Pantsir system would be provided to Hezbollah via Syria, where Russia propped up President Bashar al-Assad by entering the civil war there in 2015.
The future of Wagner has been unclear since the June mutiny and the death of Prigozhin in an unexplained plane crash in August.
Asked about unverified Russian reports that Prigozhin's 25-year-old son, Pavel, had become the leader of Wagner, Peskov said: "This is not a question for us - this is not our topic and we do not have any information on this."
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