What do we know about the Wagner group, Putin's ghost mercenaries

What do we know about the Wagner group, Putin's ghost mercenaries

What do we know about the Wagner group

Several images remain imprinted on the war in Ukraine. The most chilling, however, are those of the Bucha massacre: abandoned bodies in the street of civilians executed, handcuffed, tortured. A war crime for which Russia does not recognize the responsibility, but which the clues seem to lead to a specific culprit. "Older soldiers took the place of the younger ones who invaded the city," said a witness. Who were these older soldiers? Given the barbarism, now a trademark, it is likely that they are those former special forces, former policemen, former (?) Common criminals who make up the brigades of the Wagner group. Much has been said about the elusive Wagner group, but in reality very little has been said. Also because those who have tried to understand something more, by fault or by destiny, have not made a good end. Three journalists murdered in Africa were on their trail, as well as the Russian investigative journalist Max Borodin, who "fell" from the fifth floor of his building.

Who really is the Wagner group?

The origins A ghost army Recruitment The ideology New jobs and new names Story of a foreign fighter in the war in Ukraine 31 years old, single father, former soldier British, James has decided to volunteer against the Russians: "I will stay here until I win" The origins Wagner is theoretically a private military company (PMC) like there are many in the West, including the American Academi, renaming of the infamous Blackwater. However, unlike the other PMCs that cannot be used in combat operations, Wagner responds more to the logic of a mercenary group, an organization that would be as illegal under the Russian Penal Code as the PMC themselves are.

Wagner is, however, only the latest arrival and the best known in the galaxy of Russian private companies that has seen Anti-terror Orel, Redut Antiterror and Tigr-Top Rent as ancestors. It was born from the "ashes" of the Slavonic Corps wanted by two executives of the private security company Moran Security (active against piracy), Vadim Gusev and Yevgeny Sidorov: a detachment of 267 contractors created to protect the oil pipelines in Syria, but which instead of supervising the plants ended up clashing with the men of ISIS. An unplanned battle that led to the arrest by the FSB of Gusev and Sidorov in October 2013 on charges of mercenarism. The group's fighters were instead released, before being recalled by a colleague.

That colleague, retired with the rank of colonel, had served as commander of a separate detachment of the Second Brigade of the Crane Staff, the Russian military intelligence. His nom de guerre was Wagner, as Adolf Hitler's favorite composer. It is said that in Syria to get gassed while he was carrying out carnage, she listened to the German composer, feeling like an Aryan. That man, that Nazi, is called Dmity Utkin, and his ideological sympathies are quite clear about him. First mission of the new group: Ukraine, Donbass. Objective: to restore order. Among the famous little green men there were also them: ex spetsnaz (Russian special forces), ex soldiers, ex policemen.

A group of Russian cybercriminals attempted a blackout in Ukraine Sandworm, affiliated with intelligence Russia's military, tried to cut off electricity supplied by a Ukrainian energy company, failing where it did six years ago A ghost army Who really finances the Wagner group is a secret and one can only speculate. Radio Liberty thinks that he is directly the Russian Defense Ministry but the most accredited rumor is that he is one of the many creatures of "Putin's chef", Yevgeny Prigozhin, already sanctioned by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom for this activity. Prizgozhin, however, could be only one among many interested in the services of this militia.

Wagner seems very close to the Kremlin, so close that his barracks are located in Krasnodar, next to the village of Molkino where the base of the 10th separate special Gru special brigade, the military unit 51532, is located. Russian government continues to deny any report, not least because keeping Wagner in the mystery of lawlessness has its advantages. Every action of the group cannot be officially traced back to Moscow, for example war crimes, but also sabotage, pressure and strategies of chaos to bring down governments or repress democratic turns. And so the pmc can engage in conflicts without causing Russia to enter the war directly, but they are not the only ones

It happened for example in Deir Ezzor, in Syria, where Wagner was to defend the energy assets of Prigozhin but also to support pro-Assad forces in battle. Badly armed and lightly equipped, 400 fighters attacked an outpost manned by US special forces guarding a gas plant in early 2018. A surprise attack that turned into a carnage in which 200 men lost their lives. Recalling that Stalingrad, a member reveals to Soverhenno Sekretno that "the fighters who showed up in Syria had been unlucky in life ... and x policemen, inmates and soldiers. About 40% had been in prison for serious crimes such as murder and hand robbery. armed ".

Unfortunate and delinquents who had nothing to lose in life, but who, however, got along well in war if - as the New York Times and former McFate paratrooper tell - those mercenaries managed to keep test for 4 hours with the elite of the American special forces made up of Green Berets and Delta Force, who had to resort to "help from above" to get the better of them: Apache, drones, AC-130. Before attacking, having intercepted communications in Russian the Americans asked Putin's army stationed in Syria to withdraw those men, but Moscow denied any knowledge and involvement. They were ghosts. Expendable ghosts.

As well as the defeats of the Wagne r do not officially taint the Russian army (and the dead are not counted), the victories reward him. According to a fighter, Akerbat in Syria was captured by the men of the Wagner group, while the official version does not name them in a single line, attributing the conquest to the Syrian government forces with the support of the Russian air forces.

Recruitment “A medical examination was scheduled at the Molkino camp, but it was mostly limited to checking arms and legs. We had to run 3 kilometers and do 40-50 push-ups, but the defining test was the lie detector. Out of eight people in the group, only two passed the polygraph test, "said a fighter in an interview.

From what is known, most of the approximately 4,000-5,000 men (the number has grown over the years) are Russian citizens (ethnic Russian and Cossacks) but the group also includes Ukrainians and citizens of other countries . They are mostly recruited through veteran acquaintances and online networks. Their ages vary, there are ex-military in their 50s but also less trained 20s who are attracted to the high salaries compared to an average Russian salary. Considering the exchange rate with the ruble, the fighters according to rumors bring home about between 2,000 and 3,000 euros, but the figure varies according to the fights engaged (about 600 euros per week) and in addition to depending on the ruble rate it has never been constant in the years. For each minor injury in 2017 around 500 euros were compensated, 3,000 more treatments in the case of a more serious one. And if you die, the family is promised a figure of around 35,000-50,000 euros.

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Arrow Ideology Just as nationality varies, so do motivations and ideologies among ghost soldiers. There are those who do it out of patriotism, returning from high ranks of the army, services and special forces, or those who only care about money; who can be classified as a neo-Nazi sympathizer, is the case of "Wagner" Utkin but not only him, and who does not have a precise ideology. Rodnovery itself, a religion based on Slavic paganism particularly in vogue in southern Russia which at first seemed dominant in the group, with the turnover of men and intermingling lost its importance. With the increase in numbers, the battalions divided into 300-400 people have seen the age drop drastically, but the command remains firmly in the hands of the veterans, including veterans from the Afghan war.

Nuovi jobs and new names Employment contracts are strictly fixed-term and depend on the “project”. If in Donbass it was a few months, for the war in Syria the salary was one year, with holidays every 6 months. At the end, after the prescribed rest, the soldier can choose whether to extend the contract or enter the reserve, from which he can return at will. "Business trips" instead depend on situations: the men of the Wagner group have been in Donbass to ensure Russian control, in Syria to fight alongside pro-Assad troops, but also in Mali to face the rebels together with the army and police, where they were accused of committing "serious and systematic international human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, torture, disappearances and summary executions". Now about a thousand men are in Ukraine for various purposes, including the killing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Whatever the final outcome, the myth created around Putin's ghost army seems destined to disappear, at least like Wagner: the group seems to have already changed its name to La Liga.

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