On May 20, 2023, Russia claimed to have taken control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which had been the epicentre of intense fighting. President Vladimir Putin praised his troops and the private mercenary group Wagner for their alleged success. However, Ukraine denied this and claimed that battle was ongoing, describing the situation as “critical.”
Here let us look at the private group Wagner, which claimed victory in Bakhmut. Moreover, Wagner group leadership said it wouldsoon hand over the city to the Russian Military.
Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organization often described as a private military company (PMC), played a significant role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Wagner has about 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts.In 2023, Russia granted combat veteran status to Wagner contractors who took part in the invasion.
The Group is also a de facto unit of the Russian Ministry of Defence or Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.It operates beyond the law in Russia, where private military companies are officially forbidden.
HOW DID WAGER GROUP START?
The Wagner Group started around 2014 during the Ukraine-Russia conflict on the Crimean Peninsula. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and a close associate of President Putin is said to finance the group. The group reportedly took its name from the nom de guerre of its leader, Dmitry Utkin. He is a retired Russian military officer who chose Wagner to honor the composer, who was a favorite of Hitler’s. The group is unregistered as a legal entity anywhere in the world, as mercenaries are illegal under Russian law.
WHY DOES RUSSIA USE THE WAGNER GROUP?
One of the reasons according to reports is that Russia uses the group for plausible deniability in certain conflicts. t is also used to obscure from public the number of casualties and financial costs of Russia’s foreign interventions. Another reason is to overcome the shortage of regular troops willing to fight for Russia’s interests abroad. A third reason is to advance Russia’s strategic and economic goals in regions such as the Middle East and Africa.
HOW DOES THE WAGNER GROUP GET ITS FUNDING?
The Wagner Group gets its funding mainly from Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is a close ally of President Putin. The Wagner Group is also known to receiveforeign sources of funding, such as gold and diamonds for its work in the Central African Republic (CAR). The exact source of the group’s funds remains unclear.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE WAGNER GROUP?
The goals of the Wagner Group are not very clear, but they seem to align with Russia’s interests in various regions of the world. Some of the possible goals are:
- To support Russia’s allies and undermine its enemies, such as in Syria, Libya, and Ukraine.
- To gain access to and exploit natural resources, such as oil, gold, and diamonds, in exchange for military services, such as in the Central African Republic and Sudan.
- To expand Russia’s influence and presence in strategic areas, such as the Middle East and Africa.
- To test new weapons and tactics in real combat situations.
- To avoid international scrutiny and accountability for Russia’s actions, by using a private entity that can deny any official links to the Kremlin
The international community views Wagner Group as a serious threat to peace and security in the regions where it operates. It has been accused of committing various human rights and humanitarian law violations. The massacring civilians, torturing prisoners, and staging evidence of atrocities by other parties. The group has also been implicated in interference in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. The United States and the United Kingdom have imposed economic sanctions and criminal charges on Wagner Group. They lso imposed sanctions on its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, and its associates. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $250,000 for information leading to Prigozhin’s arrest. The United Nations expressed its concern over Wagner Group’s recruitment of prisoners in Russia and Mali. The UN has called for an independent investigation into Wagner Group’s activities and accountability for its crimes.
WAGNER GROUP CONTROVERSIES
The group has also been accused of killing and torturing civilians near Kyiv in April 2022, alongside regular Russian troops. The group’s participation in atrocities in Mali, where it has been linked to the massacre of 500 people in a village in March 2022. During a five-day siege, they are accused of torturing and raping some of the victims. They are also accused of attempting to stage evidence of French atrocities near an army base in Mali in 2022.
The group’s interference in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections, as well as online propaganda operations is also said.
The group’s legal status and relationship with the Russian government, which officially denies any ties to Wagner or its activities. The group operates beyond the law in Russia, where private military companies are forbidden. The group’s existence allows Russia to pursue its geopolitical interests. It alo expands its influence without officially deploying its regular troops or risking direct confrontation with other powers.
(SOURCED FROM VARIOUS REPORTS)