We want the Wagner case to become a catalyst for other lawyers around the world to start cases in their own countries. Together we will be able to receive sums corresponding to the enormous damage that the Russians have inflicted on this country.
– Jason, good afternoon!
– Good afternoon!
– I am glad to see you, I am glad to welcome you. I want to introduce you to our viewers right away. Because you are an unusual guest. You are a well-known lawyer, you are the head of the law firm McCue Jury and Partners. You are a Doctor of Law in the UK. You have a huge number of high-profile international cases.
You have come to Ukraine today because you have initiated legal proceedings on behalf of the Ukrainian people against the Wagner Group, where you represent the victims of Russian aggression. You have initiated this lawsuit on behalf of Ukrainians who are now in the UK, who have suffered from Russian aggression. And you want Prigozhin, the Wagner Group and Russian war criminals to pay £5-9 billion. Tell me, please, how are you going to achieve this?
– This is the first case in the entire campaign. This particular case concerns certain defendants representing the Russian war machine. Other cases that we have planned as part of the campaign will be against other defendants and in favour of other victims among Ukrainians. The whole idea is that the more resources we have, the more cases we will be able to initiate, the more Ukrainian victims we will be able to present, the greater the reparations we will be able to obtain in favour of Ukraine and the more problems we will be able to create for the Russian war machine. The fact is that we want the first cases that we are dealing with, such as the Wagner case and other cases that we have in our plans, to become a catalyst for other lawyers around the world to start cases in their own countries. Together we will be able to receive the huge sums that have been announced and that correspond to the enormous damage that the Russians have already inflicted on this country.
– Your case is, in fact, a flagship case, which will become an important precedent to be used further in international practice by other lawyers and in other countries. Good. Now, if the High Court of London makes a decision and says that the Wagner Group and Russian war criminals should pay this amount of compensation, reparations to the affected Ukrainian families – specifically where will this money be taken from? Will these be any assets? From whom and how will they be withdrawn in practice so that these amounts are delivered, strictly speaking, to the victims, the addressees?
– Good question. After receiving judgment in our favour, a tactical game will begin, during which we will pursue assets around the world. We have a huge team of investigators, including Bellingcat and others. A lot of people around the world are helping us track down the assets of the war machine. The judgments that we will receive will apply to already sanctioned assets, as well as those that are not yet under sanctions. In fact, we will be able to effectively impose sanctions by obtaining an order to freeze the defendant's funds in securing the claim. Again, this is a tactic that I would not like to talk about now, because I do not want Mr. Putin to know about it. I have spent 30 years of my life pursuing terrorist organizations in the courts, winning cases and using court verdicts to find assets and use them as compensation. It's the same here. Do you know that the Wagner Group are terrorists?
– Yes. We will talk about this too: about the recognition of the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. And now I would like to ask you... Tell me, please, what do you think will be the way? How long will it take from the moment you filed this lawsuit before it is satisfied? I understand that this is not a month or two. I understand well. Because we personally have the experience of filing a lawsuit with the ECHR: Dmitry Gordon, one of the most famous Ukrainian journalists, the founder of our online publication "Gordon", has filed an ECHR lawsuit against the state of Russia. And the state of Russia criminally persecutes Gordon, putting him on the list of terrorists, extremists for his reporting of the truth and smashing fakes of Kremlin propaganda. But how long do you think it will be before the High Court of London delivers its verdict?
– On average, the length of such cases in the English courts can take from one to three years. It all depends on the evidence in the case – how strong they are – and on the defence of the other side: Prigozhin and Wagner. For example, Prigozhin, in another case, sued the founder of Bellingcat for defamation. We were the lawyers defending Bellingcat, and it did not take us long to win this case.
– How exactly will compensation be distributed among the Ukrainian victims? Who will get how much? And, strictly speaking, who exactly are these claimants with whom you filed this lawsuit – Ukrainians who suffered, who, as I understand it, live in the UK, but perhaps not only them?
– The case, which was initiated in London, can represent the180,000 Ukrainians evacuated to Britain and who have a visa. Which gives them the right to be a claimant in the case. Other lawsuits that will be launched around the world will concern other groups of claimants. That is why we are talking about a campaign, not a single case. This is just the first case. Here is how it works. The court assesses the actual, real damage caused to each claimant. This is not like an international process where symbolic damages are awarded. We are talking about real damages. We have an idea. We believe that Ukrainians who join the lawsuit will demonstrate patriotism and agree to donate a certain percentage of the compensation they receive to other Ukrainian victims to help them. Thus, we will have victims helping other Ukrainian victims. We have also been cooperating for six months with your Supreme Court and other lawyers in Ukraine on the question of how to reform the legal system in Ukraine, so that, taking into account our experience in such cases, it would be possible to file a lawsuit in favour of Ukrainians in Ukraine, and so that the execution of those judgments could be ensured worldwide.
When I came to Budanov to explain the idea of a lawfare that we are engaged in all over the world, he interrupted me in the middle of a word and said: "I understand. We are in. Let's do it. How can we help?
– Does the Ukrainian government support you? And if so, what is this support?
– Now we have come here to meet with all relevant Ukrainian authorities. We have the full support of the Office of the President and the Government of Ukraine in promoting this lawfare campaign, the support of all affected Ukrainians around the world.
– You have met with [the head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence] Kyrylo Budanov in particular. And he wrote about it publicly. Tell me, please, what are the results of this meeting? What will be the further support or cooperation from the Main Directorate of Ukrainian Intelligence?
– General Budanov turned out to be an important figure from the very beginning. When I came to him to explain the idea of the lawfare, this unfamiliar concept of what we do around the world, he interrupted me literally in the middle of speaking and said: "I understand. We are in. Let's do it. How can we help?" In all such cases, there are people like me who are engaged in similar cases all over the world. We submit applications, requests to government agencies – such as intelligence, police, prosecutor's office, to provide evidence that can help in our case. And these requests are appropriately considered by the local government agencies in order to provide us with what we need.
– As far as I understand, the victims of poisoning in Salisbury are also in this process. And how does it fit together?
– Yes. We are considering Salisbury. This is part of our lawfare, this campaign. Why? Because we are talking about people from all over the world who are victims of certain aspects of the Russian war machine. These are the people who unite in this campaign, demonstrating solidarity, a united front in order to bring a case against the tyranny that is currently tormenting your country. If problems arise in one or another corner of the world because of the Kremlin's intention of the Russian foreign policy to act contrary to international criminal law, this may become the object of this campaign.
– Legally accompanying this case – a year, or three, to the bitter end – is a costly story. Where will you get the money for this?
– You are absolutely right. When you bring cases in favour of victims around the world against someone like the Russian Federation and its war machine, you realise that they have enough funds. We need our means, our resources to be able to resist them. And we regularly face the problem when we have to look for the means to fight. However, we have always had the opportunity to find financing. I am sure this case will not be an exception.
We’re proud to represent Ukrainian war victims against the * private military company, Wagner Group. @JasonMcCue: “This action is about accountability and just reparations against Putin’s state-sponsored terrorism" #Wagnerterrorists— McCue Jury & Partners LLP (@mccuejury) November 1, 2022
Please #support: https://t.co/QYkc4RYcpj
– I would like to ask you as a super-experienced and qualified lawyer. Tell me, please, what is the fate of Vladimir Putin? Where, in which dock will he sit? When can it be and how?
– Putin looks more and more like a man who is at the head of a rogue state. His actions – what he is doing in Ukraine, his war crimes, whatever you want to call it – show that he is not a person who is part of the international order and the commonwealth of nations. He is the one who goes too far. You asked me a political question. I'm not a politician – I'm a lawyer. But I can only say that his actions open up the possibility of legal prosecution. And we will strive to hold him accountable for these actions and force him to pay reparations for what he did.
I can also say that what Putin is doing, his war machine, is a classic definition of terrorism. After all, "Wagner" is the classic definition of a terrorist organisation. It is clear that Putin is engaged in hiring Wagner terrorists to pursue his illegal foreign policy. That is how I can say it. If you asked me how to cook a delicious borscht, I would answer: "It's better to ask someone more knowledgeable." But as far as terrorism is concerned, exactly what I said is happening. This is what the Russian president is doing together with Prigozhin. And he needs to stop.
– A special trial, a special tribunal of the Nuremberg type, but is it possible in Mariupol or in Bucha?
– A special tribunal is possible. This is one of the paths to justice that Ukrainians should follow in general. But the path to justice through the tribunal is always slow. It is aimed only at a small group of people. And of course, we are not talking about reparations, but that is not the point. The significance of the tribunal is that it leaves a mark in history – a great injustice committed. But like everything else, it depends on the realpolitik of the international community. Justice has many roads. One of them is the international tribunal. The other is the reparations committee. The third is the lawfare. All the roads you have to go through. We need to go every way, because Ukrainians deserve it.
I cannot understand Mr. Putin: how can he allow a terrorist organization to send sledgehammers to the European Parliament on behalf of Russia?
– The United States plans to recognize the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. When this happens, what consequences will there be for the Wagner, for Prigozhin? And how will this directly help in your court case and in similar lawsuits today, in which Ukrainians are looking for justice?
– When we started preparing this campaign – the case against "Wagner" and Prigozhin, which is based on the claim that it is a terrorist organisation – we gathered our evidence, experience and wrote to the US Secretary of State, my Prime Minister, and indicated in the letter that the organisation falls under the classic definition of terrorism and should be recognised as such. One of the important aspects of the campaign is that we are going to file a lawsuit in America, and Wagner will be the defendant there. It is important to put pressure on the international community to recognise this group as a terrorist group. It should be recognised, but sometimes the process turns out to be slow and administrative. Answering your question – in the lawsuits brought by Ukrainians, whether in Britain or in America, we will have to prove that Wagner is a terrorist organisation. If it is recognised as a terrorist organisation, it will help the case to save time and money. And that is exactly what should happen.
– Yevgeny Prigozhin, who sent a bloody sledgehammer to the European Parliament, with which one of the Wagner, who surrendered to Ukrainian captivity, was publicly executed, was killed... In general, this is such an egregious case that I do not even know what to compare it with, and his behaviour is egregious. The FBI announced $250 000 for his head. Tell me, is this an effective mechanism? And what does that mean?
– The wanted list is a very effective tool of the American government. If I'm not mistaken, Bin Laden was on this list. But justice against him was done differently. Such definitions that governments around the world use – they create stigmatisation, recognise the illegality of terrorist groups and lead to punishments for them, which irritates them. It is very important. We should welcome all efforts made by any Government, large or small, to contribute. Let's not forget that for many years we have seen the Wagner terrorists in Africa, then in Syria, and now they are on the front line in Ukraine. Let's stop these monsters and hordes of terrorists at the gates of Europe now. To do this, we will show firmness, become tough and take measures.
– This case is not your first contact with Prigozhin and his Wagner Group. Prior to that, you undertook to defend the head of the Bellingcat investigative company, Eliot Higgins, when Prigozhin filed a lawsuit against him. Have you received any threats or any messages from Prigozhin or from his people in connection with that case and in connection with the case that you have now undertaken to conduct in favour of Ukraine?
– No, we have not received any threats. On the other hand, when you have such a job, when you sue terrorists, what does a terrorist do? He's threatens. So it may or may not happen. The fact is that if they threaten, they simply emphasise that they are monsters and terrorists. Excuse me, but I cannot understand Mr. Putin: how can he allow a terrorist organization to send sledgehammers to the European Parliament on behalf of Russia? This is the chaos that is being created in the world order. People should speak out against this.
– Among your other high–profile cases is the case against Lukashenko, which you conducted in 2012, the case of the opposition leader Andrei Sannikov. How did it end? Or is it still in the process?
– The goal there was different. The purpose of the lawfare in this case was to get Sannikov and his comrades out of prison. And we have created a whole series of lawsuits, including private ones, with which we threatened Lukashenko and his ministers. So if one of his ministers had gone to a conference in France, you would have been there with a team of lawyers and would have been ready to bring to justice privately. As a result, Sannikov and the group were released. We didn't need to bring a case. Just the case when the threat of a lawsuit is enough to achieve a result. And we will use similar tactics in this campaign.
– Jason, please name your most resonant cases that you are proud of. That's if you literally briefly say about each.
– I'm proud of them all. I'm serious. Every case, every case, whether it concerns dozens of victims or millions, like the Rohingya, for example, is equally important. After all, everyone has the right to justice. The bad guys need to be stopped and made to pay, wherever they are. So I won't name any favourite cases. Some were more difficult than others, some received more media attention than others. But justice finally prevailed. And that makes me happy. You know, our team initiated cases against the IRA, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, al-Nusra, we had cases against Iran, rogue states such as Libya. This is our mission. We believe in it and we are good at it. And now we are trying to provide this opportunity to Ukrainians so that they can take advantage of it.
– Jason, I thank you for this conversation, thank you for this interview. You are doing a very important job, a very important case. And I wish you good luck along the way. I wish us all the best of luck along the way. Because Ukraine will win.
– Of course. And you continue your work. It's just as important. We have to do what we do best. If you ask me to get into a tank, I would hardly be able to cope. Here I can punish terrorists. This is true. Thank you very much.