The Wagner group, a security company owned by wealthy businessman Yevgeniy Prigojin and former Russian intelligence officer Dmitry Utkin, nicknamed “Chief” for his company’s supply of food to the Kremlin Palace, was founded in 2014 to support Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas conflict.
The Wagner group, mostly convicts, sent troops outside Ukraine to various conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, including the civil war in Syria.
British intelligence gives the number of Wagner troops active in Ukraine at 50,000, making up a quarter of Russia’s total strength.
Claiming that Russia played an important role in gaining control over parts of Ukraine, Wagner is also accused of committing “war crimes” and human rights violations.
Wagner, who technically violated Russian laws by participating in the activities of private military companies (PMC), is also considered an “important transnational criminal organization” by the United States.
The world recognized Wagner during the annexation of Crimea
Wagner, a secret organization operating in Africa and the Middle East when it was founded in 2014 and thought to have around 5,000 fighters, has grown significantly since then.
Wagner, who was first involved in the Ukraine-Russia conflict with Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, made a name for himself worldwide with this step.
A little over a month after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War, Wagner’s mercenaries were deployed in Ukraine on March 28, 2022.
According to the US National Security Council, while about 80 percent of its troops in Ukraine were withdrawn from prisons, it was stated that the Wagner Group was effective in the Russian capture of Bahmut city in eastern Ukraine.
On the other hand, while such private military companies (PMC) are illegal under Russian law, the group technically violates Russian law by participating in PMC activities.
White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby also stated that Wagner purchased weapons from North Korea for use in Ukraine.
Operates from Africa to the Middle East
It is noted that the Wagner group also operates in Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Libya and the Central African Republic.
Outside of Ukraine, the Wagner group has participated in regional conflicts and has also operated in many African and Middle Eastern countries where Russia has extended its influence, according to reports from the U.S. Military Academy’s Counter-Terrorism Center at West Point.
On the other hand, the Wagner group sent troops in 2015 to support the Assad administration in the Syrian civil war.
There are also mercenaries affiliated with the Wagner group, which supports the forces of Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the armed forces in the east of the country.
The Wagner group, which was invited to protect the diamond mines in the Central African Republic, is thought to ensure the security of the gold mines in Sudan.
The Mali government is using the Wagner group against armed groups in the country.
Wagner Group expert Catrina Doxsee from the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggested that the Wagner group provides natural resources to finance countries that are vulnerable to financial penalties such as US sanctions.
Noting that Wagner was also engaged in gold mining and smuggling, Doxsee said that he tried to reduce the impact of Western sanctions with these methods.
It is also on the agenda with allegations of war crimes and human rights violations.
On the other hand, allegations of war crimes and human rights violations by Wagner mercenaries operating in many countries are also on the agenda.
A former commander who sought asylum in Norway after deserting from the mercenary in January claimed to have witnessed war crimes in Ukraine.
Ukrainian prosecutors allege that three Wagner Group mercenaries killed and tortured civilians near Kiev in April 2022, alongside Russian troops.
In addition, German intelligence announced that Wagner mercenaries may have massacred civilians in Buça in March 2022.
There is evidence that the Wagner group violated a United Nations (UN) arms embargo and “installed land mines and improvised explosive devices in and around the Lebanese city of Tripoli without regard to the safety of civilians,” the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) said in a 2020 statement. specified.
The UN and the French government accused Wagner mercenaries of raping and robbery of civilians in the Central African Republic.
Wagner leader had tensions with Russian commanders
Wagner’s founder Prigojin has repeatedly accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the head of the Ukrainian army, Valery Gerasimov, of “incompetence” and deliberately undersupplying Wagner units fighting in Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has said anonymously that “voluntary formations” in Ukraine must sign contracts with it by the end of June.
This move was seen as an attempt by the government to gain more control over Wagner.
Wagner’s founder, Prigojin, on Friday, June 23, accused the Russian army of organizing an attack on Wagner and threatened to respond and started a rebellion against the Russian administration.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) opened a criminal case on charges of “armed riot”.
In a statement made by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the allegations that Wagner’s camps were attacked were denied.