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Wagner Group

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Wagner Grupe.
With the Wagner Group, there is no difference between civilians or army, male or female. There was a woman shot dead on the road and my brother was running to my mother to raise the alarm. A sniper shot him as he was running. He was a civilian. They raped [my sister] in our home... it became Wagner's house, where they drank and carried out those heinous acts.
—Usman, witness to the 2021 Bambari massacre in the Central African Republic.[1]
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Wagner Group (or Wagner PMC) (Russian: Группа Вагнера, romanised: Gruppa Vagnera), is a private military contractor/mercenary group affiliated with the Russian Federation.[2] The name is a reference to Richard Wagner, a composer and favorite of Adolf Hitler. The group's founder, Dmitry Utkin (1970–2023), was a well known white supremacist who was fond of Nazi ideology (despite the original Nazis being anti-slavic). It was funded and formerly led by Yevgeny PrigozhinWikipedia (1961–2023),[3] a convicted felon[4] who obtained riches through contracts with the Russian government, spanning from providing nutrition for school children[note 1] to helping construct training facilities for the armed forces. Though he previously denied being affiliated with the organization, he took a prominent role in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Wagner PMC is viewed by many as a terrorist organization and has been labeled a "Transnational Criminal Organization" by the United States Treasury.[6] In Estonia, Wagner PMC is designated as a terrorist organization.[7]

Under Russian law, it is illegal for mercenary groups to exist and operate, but due to loopholes in Russian law, Wagner can operate and recruit members in the country since a private corporation can legally have a private military.[8] The Kremlin abuses this legal loophole on a regular basis to secure its imperialistic goals.[9] In 2023, Wagner resorted to an unusual form of recruiting (this is not a joke): advertising on Pornhub to replenish their numbers.[No, not The Onion][10] Wagner Group has ties to the Russian Imperial Movement, which also commits war crimes alongside Wagner. The Russian Imperial Movement and the Wagner Group are both designated as terrorist organizations by the United States and Canada.[11]

Operations in Ukraine[edit]

The Russian military initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. To cement its military occupation, Wagner was called upon to assist. During the invasion Wagner systemically brutalized Ukrainian civilians. People were murdered, raped, and had their personal belongings stolen; most infamously in Kyiv.[12] Wagner has taken a forward role in the 2022 invasion. For several months from late summer to early autumn they were the only part of the Russian forces with any sort of success. Wagner operations are largely in line with Russian military doctrine, namely attempting to bomb their targets out of position, then use infantry to sweep the area. However, this tactic can be very attritional, many times infantry assault groups aren't supported by armor groupings, making the infantry easy targets for Ukrainian forces. At the height of its influence on the frontline, it is estimated that Wagner had 50,000 fighters, mainly from a covert but later overt prison recruitment scheme.

Wagner was the primary force leading the encirclement and seizure of BakhmutWikipedia in Eastern Ukraine since March 2022. The city has very little tactical value, and losses on both sides have been high, though because of Wagner's attritional tactics it's estimated Wagner's losses are higher. There are many documented accounts from captured Wagner fighters that their missions often bordered on suicidal; sending in small assault groupings, without adequate support, to capture hardened Ukrainian defensive positions. This has resulted in an estimated 30,000 casualties in the area.[13] The callous logic behind Wagner's tactics is that if command sends in small groupings of recruited convicts to test Ukrainian positions before committing less 'expendable' resources the Group's remaining experienced fighters and valuable armored assets can be better preserved.[14]

Wagner and Prigozhin have been permitted a significant amount of autonomy compared to many other informal military groupings that have found themselves folded into the Russian armed forces. This autonomy extended to permitting a significant amount of criticism directed towards the Russian Ministry of Defense and indirectly to Putin. Prigozhin frequently criticized Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Each was in charge of early operations that included an assault of Kyiv that led to serious losses of Russia's most experienced fighters, in addition to poor combined arms combat that resulted in heavy losses of Russian armor. Prigozhin accused both Shoigu and Gerasimov of corruption and suggested that they be sent to the frontline naked, armed only with a machine gun. Prigozhin also lobbied the Russian Duma to change laws making it easier for Wagner soldiers to receive equivalent benefits to the Russian armed forces, including burial rights. Prigozhin lobbied heavily for a more violent posture from Russian forces, and was instrumental in the promotion of Sergei Surovikin from Autumn 2022 until January 2023.

The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has taken the lead in offensive operations in Ukraine as well as reining in Prigozhin's autonomy. Putin reinstated Gerasimov as the commander of forces, and reduced Surovikin to his subordinate. The Russian MoD has also taken sole control of prisoner recruitment, denying Wagner its most effective way to replenish troop strength. Several pieces of legislation that would have made it easier for Wagner to operate in the country have been tabled, likely at Putin's direction. In response, Prigozhin significantly tempered his criticism of the Russian MoD. Losing access to their primary recruiting tool, Wagner established around 42 recruitment centers, including three that are based out of local sports clubs including the Dynamo Sports ClubWikipedia's facilities in Samara, the Antares sport club in Rostov and the Boxing Federation of RussiaWikipedia building in Tyumen.[15] Wagner has also opened its own youth club in St. Petersburg called 'Wagnernyok'.

Institute for the Study of WarWikipedia released an assessment on March 12th 2023[16] detailing Wagner and Prigozhin's falling out with Putin and Russian MoD. There appears to be an effort by the Russian MoD to weaken Wagner forces by making them responsible for most of the fighting happening in and around Bakhmut. The decision by Gerisamov and Shoigu to deploy forces in that way seems to be politically rather than tactically motivated. Putin may also be favoring the MoD over Wagner because they failed to seize Bakhmut by the end of 2022. Prigozhin also dominated the Ultra-nationalist blogger information space, which was a great recruitment tool, and co-opted by Putin to support Russia's maximalist goals. The main thrust of the assessment though is that Putin was threatened Prigozhin's rising influence, reshuffled the command structure to weaken Wagner's standing and access to materials, then stopped giving credit to Wagner for any advances in Bakhmut, and began establishing a narrative of failure to eventually blame Wagner for military shortcomings, despite a plethora of evidence that Russian MoD is plagued by the same if not worse shortcomings.


In June of 2023, perhaps realizing having a glorified mob boss in charge of a large group of neo-Nazis that constantly criticize his generals was a bad idea, Putin backed the idea put forward by the MOD for mercenary groups to sign contracts with the Russian military.[17] Prigozhin, possibly panicking at the prospect of losing the opportunity to send tens of thousands of battle-hardened shitheads on a campaign to commit more war crimes, subsequently refused to do so, admittedly citing the general lack of braincells of Sergei Shoigu, a fair assessment perhaps. By 21st June, US intelligence had already foreseen an insurrection by Wagner[18] but had most graciously decided not to inform the Russian government probably because it was simply too funny of an idea to inform them. Of course, some people with an ounce of rational thinking remained in the Kremlin and noted the fact Prigozhin was literally fucking insane, [19] but such a fact was dismissed. On 23rd June, Prigozhin declared the start of an armed uprising against the Russian military,[20] citing an attack on a Wagner rear camp, and asserting that the justifications for the 2022 invasion of Ukraine were falsehoods invented by the Kremlin.[21] Subsequently, by the 24th of June Wagner forces had entered Rostov-On-Don[22], captured all the military facilities within the city, and presumably pissed about for a few hours annoyed that the Russian Government hadn't surrendered yet. You might be wondering where the glorious Russian army that was set to steamroll Ukraine in 3 days and annihilate NATO within a week was, and the answer was still dying of alcoholism, desertion and idiotic offensives in the pointless embarrassment that had become the war in Ukraine: As a result, Prigozhin's claimed strength of a column of 25,000 battle hardened dickheads,[23] was only met by some helicopters[24] which as you might have guessed was about as effective as attempting to kill a hippo by breathing on it threateningly.

Wagner's forces would continue advancing throughout the day, advancing into Lipetsk Oblast,[25] and going on to pass through the town of Yelets, and continue north towards the general direction of Moscow. While this was ongoing Ukrainian officials were practically wringing their hands with glee, pointing out the blindingly obvious fact of Russia being an oligarchical hell state,[26] unable to keep even its assumed military forces under control, and that all this really showed was the weakness of the Russian military and the Kremlin as a whole. Any attempt to deny this is made more pathetic that despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered, soldiers still defected to Wagner's side.[27] Wagner is assumed to have advanced as far as the town of Kashira,[28] which for any other country might have been a concern having a private military company so close to your capital with no effective resistance, but regardless after failed attempts to reach out with Putin himself, Prigozhin would eventually speak with Lukashenko,[29] who knowing Lukashenko through extraordinary dicksucking, would convince him to withdraw from Rostov-On-Don and the rebellion would end, with Prigozhin himself saying they threatened to disband Wagner PMC, he would be sent to Belarus (a fate worse than death surely) and that he chose the option that would not lead to "Russian blood" being spilled, apparently the spilling of Ukrainian blood being an afterthought.

The Wagner Rebellion is most significant for exposing the fundamental weaknesses of the Russian government and its military's capabilities, and only exposes and exemplifies the corruption, and continued inherent problems that plague their 'special military operation' in Ukraine. Wagner forces which did not participate in the rebellion would go on to be encouraged to sign contracts with the MOD,[30] and Prigozhin would return to his all-important life role of supporting military dictatorshipsWikipedia in West Africa.

On August 23, 2023, Wagner's entire leadership, from Yevgeny Prigozhin (founder), Dmitry Utkin (co-founder and leader of military operations), and Valery Chekalov (head of security and logistics) were assassinated while traveling in Russian airspace soon after launch. .[31] [32]

Other foreign operations[edit]

Countries where Wagner is known (red) or suspected (pink) to have operated as of 2023

Wagner has been deployed in multiple places across Africa and the Middle-East for security and military operations. They have been active in Syria since 2015, employed by the Russian armed forces. They previously engaged directly against American forces near Khasham during the Battle of Khasham.Wikipedia They have been hired by Sudanese president Omar al-BashirWikipedia for security, deployed as military "trainers" in the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as supplying support for Khalifa Haftar,Wikipedia the leader of the Libyan National Army fighting against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord. Frequently after Wagner's deployment, they often are the beneficiary of lucrative government resource exploitation contracts including diamonds, chromite, cobalt, and fossil fuels.[33]

Although Wagner is the focus of sanctions from the US, EU, and other countries, Wagner continues to bring in millions of dollars monthly from their diamond mine in CAR.[34] To pacify to the locals in the CAR, Wagner has been sponsoring various soft power exercises in the country. This includes setting up a radio station called Radio Lengo Sango ("Lengo Sango" means solidarity in Sango, a language of the CAR) which pumps out popular music and Russian propaganda,[35][36] 15-cent sachets of Wa Na Wa vodka, under the tagline “Made in the Central African Republic with Russian technology”,[37] and an action film called "Tourist", aimed at Central African locals to explain why they were there.[38]

Crimes against humanity[edit]

Wagner has been accused credibly of committing multiple crimes against humanity including, but not limited to: war crimes, mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, looting, enforced disappearances, sexual abuse, torture, enslavement, deploying banned anti-personnel land mines and beheadings.[39][40] In Ukraine, there are multiple reports of summary executions against its own forces for not following orders and desertion. The most gruesome includes unverified videos purporting to show the execution of a soldier with a sledgehammer covered in Norse symbols.[41] One video includes a confession from a POW, recently exchanged in a prisoner swap, of desertion. Prigozhin also sent a violin case storing a sledgehammer, purportedly used in an execution, to the European Union Parliament before a vote designated Wagner a terrorist organization.[42]

Wagner has been accused of committing numerous war crimes and other crimes against humanity in Africa. In Mali, for instance, Wagner has been reported as having committed numerous acts of "of horrific executions, mass graves, acts of torture, rape and sexual violence, pillaging, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances perpetrated by Malian armed forces and their allies."[43] Most of Wagner's victims appear to be civilians. One particularly odious massacre committed by Wagner mercenaries and affiliated local forces is the Massacre of Moura, where hundreds of people were brutally murdered, included "unarmed captives."[43]

These are the same tactics that Wagner has employed in the Central African Republic.Wikipedia[43] Most of the world was shocked by Wagner's operations in the Ukraine, but those paying attention know that this isn't anything new. What's "shocking" is the fact that these tactics are being employed on predominantly white populations. It's unlikely that as much media attention would've been paid to Wagner otherwise.[44]

See also[edit]

  • Blackwater: the American equivalent.
  • Internet Research Agency: like Wagner, the IRA was founded by Prigozhin to further Russian interests abroad. In this case the theatre of war is cyberspace rather than meatspace.
  • Terrorism: Wagner's common tactics against civilians and opponents.
  • Genocide: Wagner happily involves itself in genocidal missions and campaigns in various countries.


  1. Earning him the moniker of 'Putin's chef', though he preferred to be known as 'Putin's butcher' because he said he can't cook.[5]


  1. Russia's Wagner Group accused of using rape and mass-murder to control an African gold mining town. CBS News.
  2. Wagner PMC website, Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  4. Prigozhin’s criminal past, straight from the source A complete translation of one of the court documents from the case that sent ‘Putin’s chef’ to prison, four decades ago (10:43 am, June 29, 2021) Meduza.
  5. Prigozhin says war in Ukraine has backfired, warns of Russian revolution by Mary Ilyushina (May 24, 2023 at 3:17 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  6. ICCT, Retrieved on March 2, 2023.
  7. Al Jazeera, Retrieved on March 3, 2023.
  8. Amy Mackinnon, Russia’s Wagner Group Doesn’t Actually Exist. Foreign Policy, 6 July 2021.
  9. CSIS, Retrieved on March 2, 2023.
  10. Russia’s Wagner group recruiting mercenaries on Pornhub - report. Jerusalem Post, 16 March 2023.
  11. Moscow Times, Retrieved on April 15, 2023.
  12. What is Russia's Wagner Group of mercenaries in Ukraine?, Retrieved on March 3, 2023.
  13. "Ukraine War: Over 30,000 Wagner fighters injured or killed in Ukraine, says US" - BBC. Published February 18, 2023.
  14. "Russia Using 'Expendable' Convict Recruits to Protect Wagner Troops: U.K.". Newsweek. Published December 19, 2022.
  31. "Yevgeny Prigozhin confirmed dead after plane crash, Russian investigators say," by Ashifa Kassam and Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian
  32. ["Wagner boss Prigozhin confirmed dead in plane crash - Moscow," The BBC
  33. An ex-member of one of the world's most dangerous mercenary groups has gone public, NPR
  34. Wagner Group Plundering CAR Diamonds, Africa Defense Forum
  35. Russia, the new power in Central Africa, CodaStory
  36. En Centrafrique, la Russie externalise son influence médiatique, INA - La Revue des Médias
  37. How Moscow bought a new sphere of influence on the cheap, Financial Times
  38. Tourist (2021), iMDb
  39. "MEPs list crimes of 'Kremlin proxy' mercenaries" - euobserver. By Andrew Rettman. Published Nov 26, 2021.
  40. UN Human Rights Commission, Retrieved on March 3, 2023.
  41. "Wagner Group Release ANOTHER Sledgehammer Execution Video" - The Daily Beast. By Dan-Ledden Hall. Published Feb. 14, 2023.
  42. "Wagner's Prigozhin gives bloody sledgehammer to EU for terror designation" - The Jerusalem Post. Published Nov 24, 2022.
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 Wagner Group May Have Committed War Crimes in Mali, U.N. Experts Say" - The New York Times. Published Jan. 31st, 2023.
  44. Wagner Group in Africa - It Could Happen Here