Gruppe Wagner is a private security and military company contracted by the Russian government. It has been fighting covertly in the war against Ukraine since 2014, but has also operated in other countries.

The Wagner group is also known by names such as “Putin’s Shadow Army” or “Russia’s Mercenaries”. According to Vladimir Putin, however, the Russian fighters are employed by a private security company.

In May 2014, Putin’s chef Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin founded the mercenary group. This also includes the right-wing extremist task force Russitsch. The name of the military company has a National Socialist background. It was named after Hitler’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner.

Dmitry Valeryevich Utkin, a neo-Nazi with a swastika on his chest, has headed the group since retiring from military service in 2013.

Mostly former members of the special forces of the Russian Federation are recruited. Participation should be voluntary and attractively rewarded. In addition, the survivors of fallen fighters are to receive additional financial compensation from the Russian state.

Before the deployment, there is a two-month training session at a military training area, which is said to be on the premises of the Russian military intelligence service GRU. The Wagner Group, like the Russian army, is financed by the founder and entrepreneur Prigozchin.

The Wagner group has already been deployed in a number of wars, in which they also committed war crimes. However, these are difficult to prove and it is difficult to accuse someone because the group acts in disguise.

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The fighters, who are known to be extremely unscrupulous, first acted in Ukraine in 2014 during the annexation of Crimea. Here the mercenaries took over military police duties. In the war of aggression against Ukraine in 2022, the Wagner group is said to have been camouflaged and had defined goals such as people in the political leadership.

The group has also been active in Syria since 2015. She is said to have supported the establishment of Russian bases. Even the Syrian army probably uses the training capacities of the mercenaries. Equipment was strengthened as the war progressed. The Russian journalist Maxim Borodin was probably killed by them as a result of his investigative research on the Wagner group.

In Venezuela, the Wagner group is used to train the government’s own elite units.

It is also active in Africa in countries such as Sudan and Mali, where it is also about training country-specific units, but from the Russian side it is also about asserting military, economic and geopolitical interests.

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