unless you’ve been on the battlefield Syria, Libya or Central African Republicyou’ve likely never heard of the Wagner Group, a private military force closely associated with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
Wagner’s troops appeared in Ukraine, presumably to fight alongside Russian troops in Mr Putin’s war. In the past month, number The number of Wagnerian troops in the country more than tripled to more than 1,000. Their presence in the eastern region known as the Donbass, home to Russia-backed separatist groups, is cause for concern given the group’s history.United Nations investigators and rights groups Said Wagnerian forces targeting civilians in conflict zones, carrying out mass executions and looting private property.
Here’s what you need to know about Wagner:
How did Wagner start?
The entity first emerged in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. The U.S. government said the group was funded by Russian businessman Yevgeny V. Prigozin, a close associate of Putin. Known as “Putin’s chef” for his catering business, he hosted an elaborate state dinner for Mr. Putin.
How did the group get its name?
The group reportedly took its name from its leader, Dmitry Utkin, a retired Russian military officer. Mr. Utkin is said to have chosen Wagner to honor the composer, who was Hitler’s favorite.Although the Kremlin denies any link to Wagner, Mr Utkin was photographed Next to Mr Putin.
Where is the group?
The group is not registered as a legal entity anywhere in the world. Mercenaries are illegal under Russian law. Observers say their shadowy presence has enabled Russia to downplay its battlefield casualties and distance itself from the atrocities committed by Wagnerian fighters.
Why are mercenaries in Ukraine?
Putin is sending seasoned and battle-hardened reinforcements to Ukraine as Russia suffers heavy losses, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, according to experts including Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s electronic surveillance agency force.
“These soldiers are likely to be used as cannon fodder in an attempt to limit Russian military losses,” he said.
Where are they recruiting?
Some of the fighters appeared to have been recruited from Syria and Libya, said John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. Russia appears to be turning to them to strengthen its forces in eastern Ukraine, he said, as the group has experience fighting in the Donbas region for the past eight years.
Where are Wagner’s forces deployed?
In addition to involvement in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Ukraine, Wagner operatives have fought in Sudan, Mali, and Mozambique, exerting Russian influence through proxies, taking orders from authoritarian leaders, and sometimes seizing oil and gas fields or obtaining other material benefits. They are becoming more formalized and are starting to behave more like Western military contractors.