Wagner Group

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"Hit squad"
Group.png Wagner Group  
(PMC, Death squad?WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Founder• Dmitry Utkin
• Yevgeny Prigozhin
HeadquartersSaint Petersburg, Russia
Interests2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, war crimes
A well known ruthless private military contractor. Its founders were involved in a chaotic coup in 2023.
For centuries, leaders often depended on bands of mercenary warriors to make up their military strength in times of war, but as national militaries evolved, these formations shank from prominence, with modern PMCs generally being focused on support roles like base or VIP security or logistics (even if their contracts grew massively post 2001).

Wagner doesn't follow that example. A force tens of thousands strong, Wagner has helped spearhead the Russian offensives around Bakhmut, and taken on international prominence. In this episode, we look at the evolution of PMCs, Russia's modern employment of them, and the implications of Wagner's role in Ukraine and its public spats with the Russian MoD - Perun - 2023.

Wagner Group, known as PMC Wagner, or just Wagner, is a private military contractor with close ties to the Russian Deep state. In 2023, Wagner, like all PMC's in Russia, was ordered to be integrated into the Russian Ministry of Defence,[1] after which a "coup" by Prigozhin played out.


Wagner started as a battalion participating from May 2014 on the Russian side in the war in Donbass, set up by Yevgeny Prigozhin.[2] The group operates beyond the law in Russia, where private military companies are officially forbidden,[3] Wagner allows the Russian state to have plausible deniability for military operations abroad.[4] Wagner was painted by corporate media-outlets such as BBC and Al Jazeera as a PMC, similar to American PMC Blackwater and a "death squad[5]" used for clandestine activities better known as black ops[6][7][8][9]. Although Russia denied Wagner to exist at first, or even receive any money from Russia, it was revealed to be a state sponsored PMC in 2023.[10]


From 2016, Wagner had 1,000 employees, which later rose to 5,000 by August 2017, and 6,000 by December 2017. The organisation was said to be registered in Argentina and has offices in Saint Petersburg and Hong Kong. In early October 2017 Wagner's funding in 2017 was reported to be over 185 million rubles ($3.1 million) with a increased presence of Ukrainians and Serbian officers working for Wagner as the Wagner Group had offices in 20 African countries.[11]

Wagner Massacre at Deir el-Zour, Syria

Bloomberg reported in Feb 7-8 2018, that Syrian government troops and Wagner PMC personnel attempted to storm US covert military base at Deir el-Zour, controlling Syria's oil fields in northeast Syria, for Conoco. Outgunned, Wagner lost an estimated 300 Russian mercenaries.[12] Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is the only Russian government official who has publicly confirmed that five people, “presumably” Russian citizens, were killed in an armed clash with US forces near Deir el-Zour in Syria.[13] Wagner's Prigozhin never forgot this incident, where his men weren't supported by Russian military and left to slaughter, which led to his coup against Russian generals in 2023, according to Washington Post analysis.[14] Mike Pompeo, Trump's CIA Director, at his Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, in April 2018, boasted about US special forces killing 'a couple hundred Russians' in Syria".[15]

American Cooperation

The Intercept reported in 2020 that Eric Prince sent a proposal to the Russian firm offering ground forces as well as aviation-based surveillance,[16] after Wagner lost more than ten fighters in Mozambique.[17] Wagner officials said they are not interested in working with Prince.

Wagner Group Recruitment Video Addresses US Veterans

On January 30, 2023, the @Belyshum Telegram channel shared a promotional video encouraging veterans of the US armed forces to join Wagner PMC. The video shows footage of US soldiers in combat and saluting the American flag. Addressing the viewers, the narrator says: "You were a hero to your country, giving your best years in the army... You dreamed of defeating evil [and] to make America great again… But in reality, you served [the] destruction of nations and the death of civilians, all for the will of adventuring families who thought they were earthly gods... You began to realize that this is the side of evil. This is not the America the Founding Fathers dreamed of... It is destroying the whole world, and today, the only country fighting this evil is Russia." The video then shows Russian and Wagner PMC forces. The narrator then adds: "If you're a true patriot of the future great America, join the ranks of the warriors of Russia. Help defeat evil, or it will be too late for everyone." The video concludes with footage simulating a nuclear bomb going off in a city.[18]


Full article: 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine/Wagner coup attempt

The Wagner Group was ordered to be integrated into the Russian military in early 2023. Wagner was the only group making significant gains in 2023 in the Special Military Operation.[19] The group - after an alleged strike on their base - invaded Rostov and attempted to drive to and eventually invade Moscow on the 23rd on June, only for leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to announce to suddenly halt what Putin called a "coup attempt". At the end of these 24 hours - Wagner's leadership left - allowedly - for Belarus. The 20 other PMCs were interestingly not under the scope of the mainstream media on this day.[20]

Several pundits, including CIA and DIA former officer Rebekah Koffler said "Putin 'orchestrated' the Wagner coup with Prigozhin as a 'classic false flag' to boost recruitment for the army and make West think he is weakened". University of Melbourne professor William Parlett argued Putin tried to lure generals and elite investors to join the "coup" to execute double agents and deep political operatives in Russia by filtering them out, perhaps to stall the war until NATO or the US stops their aid.[21][22] Wagner was able to move a large convoy of tanks and heavy weaponry out of eastern Ukraine, first into Russia, then on to Belarus, without being attacked by western forces, using the excuse that it was a "coup against Moscow".


"Russian Mercenaries Are Allegedly Raping and Murdering Central African Civilians" - "Vice News" - 2021.

Wagner is active throughout Africa, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Madagascar and Ukraine. They have been accused to have been participating in torture, rape and extrajudicial killings in Africa; whether done by themselves or being present when these things very carried out by local forces they helped train.

Prigozhin Assassination

According to the Russian Aviation Authority, Russian news agency TASS, and Wagner-aligned Telegram groups on the 23rd of August 2023, Prigozhin his plane was shot and he was killed north of Moscow. Wagner aligned Telegram groups accused the Russian Military of shooting the plane down. [23][24] U.S. intelligence is investigating what brought down Wagner chief Prigozhin’s plane.[25] Based on wreckage found at the crash site, no evidence has been found that it was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile as originally reported.[26] Kremlin announced Prigozhin death confirmed by DNA Tests. No evidence of surface-to-air missile. Ongoing investigation regarding possible air-to-air missile or bomb placed aboard plane before flight continues.[27]


An event carried out

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine/Wagner coup attemptRostov
An attempted coup, by some seen as false flag by Putin to lure out generals and double agents within the Russian State, by others as the sign the Russian state will collapse in the 2020s.
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  1. https://news.yahoo.com/shoigu-orders-pmcs-placed-under-210300941.html
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/26/putin-ally-yevgeny-prigozhin-admits-founding-wagner-mercenary-group
  3. https://www.icrc.org/en/document/russian-federation-regulating-private-military-security-companies
  4. https://www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/band-brothers-wagner-group-and-russian-state
  5. https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/world-news/shadowy-russian-death-squad-wagner-26877576
  6. https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20230222-wagner-group-s-bloody-year-in-ukraine-from-murder-squad-to-cannon-fodder
  7. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-59699350
  8. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/russia-mafia-state
  9. https://russianpmcs.csis.org/
  10. https://tass.com/defense/1639345
  11. https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/letters/2019-12-11-letter-how-hard-is-it-for-entities-such-as-the-wagner-group-to-sow-destabilisation-in-sa/
  12. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-02-16/russia-attacked-u-s-troops-in-syria
  13. https://www.polygraph.info/a/us-wagner-russia-syria-scores-killed/6741753.html
  14. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/06/30/wagner-syria-russia-battle-united-states/
  15. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/04/pompeo-boasts-about-u-s-killing-a-couple-hundred-russians-in-syria.html
  16. https://theintercept.com/2020/04/13/erik-prince-russia-mercenary-wagner-libya-mozambique/
  17. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-11-29-wagner-private-military-force-licks-wounds-in-northern-mozambique/ saved at Archive.org
  18. https://www.memri.org/tv/video-encouraging-us-veterans-join-wagner-pmc-america-is-evil-join-russia-before-too-late
  19. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/wagner-group-who-is-yevgeny-prigozhin-russia-mercenary-private-military-company/
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/25/prigozhins-march-on-moscow-chronology-of-an-attempted-coup
  21. https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/why-prigozhin-s-march-on-moscow-was-not-a-coup
  22. https://www.newsweek.com/wagner-coup-was-staged-putin-west-fell-it-opinion-1810035
  23. https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2023/08/23/Wagner-affiliated-channel-claims-Prigozhin-s-plane-was-shot-down-by-defense-ministry
  24. https://www.politico.eu/article/jet-believed-to-be-carrying-wagner-boss-prigozhin-crashes-in-russia/
  25. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/watch-live-pentagon-holds-briefing-as-questions-continue-on-crash-killing-russian-mercenary-leader
  26. https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/us-assesses-russian-surface-air-missile-took-out-wagner-plane-whodunnit-prigozhin
  27. https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/prigozhin-death-confirmed-dna-tests-kremlin-announces