Wagner Deserter Dmitry Yakushchenko seen strapped with cling tape to a wall before his execution. Photo from IBTimes

The Wagner Group, originally a shadowy organization, has emerged as Russia’s most vital mercenary organization. Conducting the dirty work the Kremlin does not want to be linked to, Wagner has engaged in illicit activities around Africa and is related to civilian massacres in the continent along with Syria and Ukraine.

In Ukraine, Wagner has emerged as arguably the most capable fighting force Russia has, as their professional troops and elite forces have taken significant losses. When Ukraine conducted successful counter-offensives, Putin desperately needed propaganda victories to continue selling the war to the public. This is where Wagner stepped in.

What is Wagner?

The Wagner Group is a private military company (PMC) that operates on behalf of the Kremlin to conduct operations Moscow does not want to be traced back to. The organization is led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close friend and former personal chef of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wagner Group was named by Dmitry Utkin, a far-right GRU officer whose call sign was “Wagner.” It is named after Richard Wagner, Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer, who was a notorious antisemite himself.

Wagner also operates an open neo-Nazi, Fascist, and Duginist subsidiary called the Rusich Group, which has called for the genocide of Ukrainians and has been responsible for some of the most horrible massacres during the War in Ukraine.

The group notoriously recruits prisoners to swell their ranks regardless of their violent history. Occasionally giving contracts to potential Russian military contractors and future FSB/GRU officers as Wagner has paid higher wages, the mercenaries seemingly have a long stream of manpower.

Operations Outside of Russia

Wagner, being a PMC, operates independently from the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and must accrue its funding. However, through illicit activities in Africa, Wagner has swelled its budget and influence.