Wagner Group (Russian company)

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Wagner Group (Russian company)

Lineup 2014
Country RussiaRussia Russian Federation
Branch of service private security and military company
Type Combat and security unit
Strength 2500 (presumed)
Insinuation Cooperation with the Headquarters for Reconnaissance (GRU)Emblem of the GRU.svg
Butcher Ukraine
War (2014) Syrian Civil War (since 2013)
Dmitri Valeryevich Utkin

Gruppe Wagner ( Russian Группа Вагнера Gruppa Wagnera ), also OSM , PMC Wagner , ChVK Wagner or CHVK Vagner , is a private Russian security and military company . Its units operate undercover . According to media reports, members of the Wagner group were active in Crimea during the Russian takeover and later in eastern Ukraine and Syria . You carry out training assignments in the Central African Republic . The group also fought on the side of General Haftar in the Libyan civil war .

tasks and goals

According to research by the Russian media group RBK , the group operates in the interests of the Russian government . Since the start of the Russian military operation in Syria in September 2015, the efforts in Russia to legalize the unit, which is illegal in itself, began, but a law apparently tailored to Wagner stalled in December 2016 because the Ministry of Defense was neither responsible for the budget nor for the Wants to recognize losses as his own. Formally, the Wagner group is not subordinate to the Russian Ministry of Defense . However, sources unanimously report close links in strategy and operations with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU . According to the NZZ , it is more of a paramilitary organization than a security company. As with other deployments of so-called Private Military Contractors (PMC) , the Wagner group's deployment in this case also has the advantage for Russia of not having to send regular troops to security-politically critical and controversial deployments. Human losses are not counted as losses of the Russian army and are not published.

The organization is on the US sanctions list against Russian companies and individuals.

The New York Times quoted a military analyst who pointed out that the Syrian government was very willing to trade security and combat services of the Russian company for access to the natural resources of their country (gas, oil, etc.).

Recruitment, Training, and Losses

The Reserve Lieutenant Colonel (Podpolkownik) Dmitri Utkin retired from active military service in 2013. Utkin previously commanded a Spetsnaz unit of the GRU military intelligence service . Since 2014 he has commanded a private unit of the Slavic Corps mercenary group and was one of the survivors of the Syria mission (see section history). He had the battle name Wagner , after the German composer Richard Wagner . The new military company was named after him.

Little is known about the exact strength of the Wagner group ; According to the RBK, the company is said to have up to 2500 men in action in Syria .

The members of the Wagner group are mostly former soldiers of the Russian army . The Telegraph also reported about Serbian Wagner fighters in Syria. On the basis of the evaluated deaths, former soldiers from the simple rank of private to lieutenant colonel (Podpolkownik) fight for the Wagner group. According to the RBK, the members of the Wagner group are being prepared for their missions at the military training area near the village of Molkino in southern Russia. A former fighter from the Wagner group said that the operational training would take one to two months and would be carried out professionally. He also told UK broadcaster Sky News that the organization would withhold all of its members' personnel records. He has difficulties reclaiming them because the Wagner group does not officially exist in Russia.

According to the Schweizer Tages-Anzeiger, former members of the unit estimate the number of those killed in Syria to be “at least 100”. In March 2017, Novaya Gazeta named nine names of those who had apparently fallen in the first three months of 2017 alone.

According to activists, the losses among the mercenaries of the Wagner group in Syria were 72 or 101 fighters between 2015 and the end of 2017, who do not appear in the official loss statistics of the Russian armed forces.

In Mozambique , seven Wagner mercenaries were killed and many wounded in fighting against Islamists in October 2019.

Funding and equipment

How the operations of the Wagner group are financed is not yet known.

The salary of a member of the Wagner group ranges from 80,000 rubles per month ( $ 1,380  ) for service in a base in Russia to 250,000 rubles ($ 4,300) for active combat duty in Syria, according to The Moscow Times . The relatives receive compensation if one of the fighters dies.

Legal framework and confidentiality

The Wagner Group is registered as a company in Argentina .

Private military companies were generally prohibited by law in Russia until 2017. Participation in armed conflicts on the territory of another state was punishable by up to seven years in prison (Section 359). Promoting, training and funding such a group was up to 15 years in prison. Shortly before the turn of the year 2016/2017, Vladimir Putin signed an amendment to the law and on January 9, 2017 Law No. 53 on compulsory military service in Russia came into force. Since then, every Russian who has completed basic military service or is a reservist is considered a Russian military member if he “prevents international terrorist activities outside the territory of the Russian Federation”. Since almost every male Russian has done basic military service after school , the law affects almost everyone. The law makes it possible to use Russian mercenaries worldwide, and according to Zeit it creates the conditions for legal expansion of the Russian military with private military companies.

Officials do not comment on the existence of private Russian combatants. There is a statement by Vladimir Putin (as Prime Minister in 2012) that these could be “a tool for the implementation of national interests without the direct involvement of the state”. Most of the information about the Wagner group comes from research by the media group RBK. She evaluated public tenders from the Defense Ministry, spoke to informants from ministries and the military as well as former members of the group. RBK worked together with the "Collective Conflict Intelligence Team", which primarily evaluates social media. Information about the existence and operations of the group is sometimes visible at the funerals of fallen relatives. The St. Petersburg newspaper "Fontanka" published documents showing that two Russian fighters of the unit were awarded state medals. They died in the winter of 2015 near the Ukrainian city of Debaltseve, which was contested during this period . Accordingly, fighters of the Wagner group who were killed in Syria also received an order of bravery.

Foreign Minister Lavrov made a surprise statement in January 2018 about the assumption of military tasks abroad by private security companies and the lack of a legal framework. A publicist who advocated the legalization of mercenary companies in Russia was arrested in early November 2018 and charged with disclosing state secrets.

Grigori Jawlinski reported in November 2018 that veterans who were "hired, trained, armed and secretly sent to war" by the Russian state would seek legal recognition in order to demand that the state assume financial and social responsibility.


In order to secure oil production and processing facilities for the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, an estimated 267 men were recruited in Saint Petersburg in 2013. A Hong Kong-registered company called the Slavic Corps was the employer. According to the reports available, the operation in Syria ended disastrously, as the poorly equipped mercenaries were surrounded by IS fighters near Homs . The men were deployed in As-Suchna , east of Palmyra . The place is on the road from Deir ez-Zor to Homs. The unit lost control of the oil facilities and barely escaped. In 2014, Vadim Gusev and Pawel Sidorov were the first Russian mercenaries ever to be convicted by a Russian court for building up a 250-strong mercenary force.


After what Russia saw as a successful operation in Crimea , members of the Wagner group became active in the Donbass region in Ukraine. Here, the group is said to have been used for disciplinary measures by the people's militia and would have taken on a kind of military police tasks. The NZZ referred to information from the Ukrainian Security Service , which claims to have identified up to 2000 people who fought under Wagner's umbrella.


Then the Wagner group was deployed in Syria . The first Wagner fighters appeared shortly before the official expansion of the Russian bases in Syria in October 2015, according to the RBK source in the Russian Defense Ministry . Initially 1000 to 1600 employees of the Wagner group were present there at the same time. At the same time, efforts began to legalize unity. The fighters take part in operations in the Syrian Civil War, but members of the unit are also supposed to train President Assad's combat troops. According to the Telegraph, a Wagner unit with fighters from Serbia is also said to be active in Syria. It is led by the Bosnian Serb Davor Savicic (fighting name "Elvis"), who fought in the Yugoslav civil war. In Syria, the equipment of the group with heavy equipment is also documented: The Wagner group operated with Russian T-90 tanks and self-propelled howitzers .

The two Russian companies Evro Polis and Stroytransgaz are known to have signed contracts with the Syrian government and to use private mercenaries. Evro Polis benefits from the oil and gas wells that were captured from the hands of IS and, according to the New York Times, has them guarded by mercenaries. The Stroytransgaz phosphate mine was temporarily under the control of insurgents and was freed by mercenaries.

Members of the Wagner group played an important role in the retaking of the city of Palmyra from the hands of IS. A former fighter from the Wagner group told the British broadcaster Sky News that he and his Russian fellow combatants had fought on the front lines, that there had been many casualties and that the Syrian army had only moved up in the second row.

On February 7, 2018, at Deir ez-Zor near Khusham ( 35 ° 18′03 ″ N 40 ° 17′31 ″ E ), a task force that had advanced against Kurdish troops, including, as it turned out later, was broken up by the American air force , also fighters of the Wagner group. Days later, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the deaths of five Russian citizens and the treatment of several dozen injured people who were being treated in Russian hospitals. However, Reuters news agency reported 300 dead and wounded in the unit. Three transport planes brought wounded people from Syria to Russia during the period in question and 80 men were killed according to a source from the Wagner group. The US media were provided with secret service telephone recordings from the run-up to the incident without comment: Prigozhin would have prepared the action with people at ministerial level in Russia as well as those in the Russian presidential administration.

In April 2018, the Russian investigative journalist Maxim Borodin died in an "unfortunate incident" according to investigators: the journalist who was researching the activities of the Wagner mercenary troops in Syria fell from his balcony on the fifth floor in Yekaterinburg .

In November 2019, journalists from Novaya Gazeta identified a Russian citizen as a Wagner mercenary on a video on the Internet, who can be seen torturing a Syrian to death in 2017 at a gas station near Homs together with his comrades. The Syrian was probably deserted before and was defeated by the apparently drunken Wagner people with a sledgehammer and then with a feldspars beheaded . The corpse's arms were severed and the body was doused with a fire accelerator and set on fire.


According to a report by the BBC, the Wagner group is also active in Sudan. The mercenaries are supposed to support the government of the then Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in the conflict against South Sudan . The Wagner forces are supposed to guarantee the conditions for good business for Russian companies and especially protect gold, uranium and diamond mines. Vladimir Putin had a good relationship with al-Bashir and offered himself as a protective power against the United States.

Central African Republic

At the beginning of 2018, it became known that at least around 170 members of the Wagner group were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR). Deliveries of weapons, ammunition, Ural-4320 military trucks and logistical equipment to the state are documented. There the mercenaries u. a. Government troops. According to Le Monde , the offshoot is apparently called Sewa Security Services . The filmmakers Orhan Dschemal , Kirill Radchenko and Alexander Rastorgujew were killed by strangers in July 2018 while shooting a film about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic. Several variants of the alleged circumstances contradicted each other, in particular the surviving driver of the journalists told incredible details. A witness died in unexplained circumstances while Pyotr Verilov (ex-husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova ), who had done his own research into the case, was poisoned with drugs on September 11, 2018 in Moscow one day after receiving information.

In April 2019, US General Stephen J. Townsend testified before the US Senate that Wagner mercenaries in the CAR provided the bodyguard for President Faustin Archange Touadéra and would help train militias.


Already in 2015, Khalifa Haftar Russia have asked, weapons and personnel to send and for six months any resolutions of the Security Council to block because he was convinced to be able to conquer the land bloodied in such a time, what initially not in Russia was classified as credible. As early as spring 2018, there was information that Wagner could also be used in Libya . In November 2018, Novaya Gazeta announced that Yevgeny Prigozhin was present at a meeting between Russian Defense Minister Shoigu and the Russian-backed ruler in eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar. After the Novaya Gazeta had disclosed this, the state RIA issued a statement which tried to justify the presence of Prigozhin, “Putin's cook”, with a culinary program - which Novaya Gazeta in turn found highly unreliable when it found the brevity of the meeting designated. When Chalifa Haftar was preparing to march his troops against the capital Tripoli at the end of March 2019 in order to put himself at the head of the country as military ruler, observers assumed that he was using around 300 mercenaries from the Wagner group alongside his militias. In November 2019, the New York Times reported that the presence of Russians in the field hospitals had also been established; instead of large wounds, the injured and dead had increasingly small entry holes and no exit wounds, which is a trademark of Russian snipers. The Russian research website Meduza had already reported in October of at least ten Russians killed and pointed to personal items found by Russians as well as statements about 30 Gruz dvésti .

According to a statement in early December 2019, the Libyan government documented between 600 and 800 Russian mercenaries who had previously been active on the side of the renegade General Khalifa Haftar in the civil war.

A confidential UN report speaks of 122 Wagner members who are in Libya. 39 mercenaries are said to belong to sniper units. In 2018 and 2019, flights were also carried out directly by or on behalf of the Wagner Group, which had its destination in eastern Libya. In doing so, they circumvented a UN arms embargo. In January 2020 there was talk of more than 500 Wagner fighters, in spring 2020 the number was given as 800 to 1200.


At the end of August 2019, 160 to 200 Wagner mercenaries were sent to northern Mozambique . There is a Muslim uprising in the province of Cabo Delgado , and the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama has been waging a guerrilla war there since 2017. In September, an Antonov An-124 transporter landed at Nacala Airport and unloaded at least one Mi-17 helicopter, three Mi-17s are said to have been in use there. In October and November 2019, the Wagner mercenaries were involved in several skirmishes, twelve men fell and were partially beheaded , a larger number were injured. In December 2019, the Wagner mercenary unit, which was not properly equipped for this type of warfare, was withdrawn from the contested areas.

Other African countries

There are indications that Wagner departments are located in Madagascar , Guinea , Angola and Zimbabwe , where they protect, among other things, Russian companies that carry out various activities there from mining to construction. You also appear there as a government advisor. The Moscow newspaper " Kommersant " reported in April 2018 that Yevgeny Prigozhin was funding Russian policy advisers for African countries in which elections are imminent.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Up to Nine Russian Contractors Die in Syria, Experts Say Incident shows how the country is using private groups to avoid deploying uniform troops, they say. Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2015
  2. Сирийские потери "Славянского корпуса" . In: Radio Swoboda , December 13, 2016.
  3. ^ Dominik Peters, Maximilian Popp, Christoph Sydow: Civil war in Syria: Idlib is facing an inferno . In: Spiegel Online . July 23, 2019 ( spiegel.de [accessed August 18, 2019]).
  4. Jok / dpa: According to the UN, Russian mercenaries are fighting the government in Libya. In: Spiegel Online. Retrieved on May 26, 2020 (German).
  5. Ute Weinmann: Wagner makes it possible. Jungle World, accessed on May 26, 2020 (German).
  6. Enes Canli: Libya: Mayor says Wagner Group left country Anadolu , May 24, 2020.
  7. a b They just don't exist. An investigation. , Novaya Gazeta, October 9, 2017; "The discussion about the legalization of the" Wagner PMC "has been going on practically since the beginning of the operation of the Russian group in Syria - since September 30, 2015."
  8. ^ Willi Neumann, Steffen Dobbert: Russia: Putin's Mercenaries . In: The time . February 6, 2017, ISSN  0044-2070 ( zeit.de [accessed August 18, 2017]).
  9. a b c d Andreas Rüesch: Russia's private armies operate in a lawless area. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . January 18, 2018, p. 5
  10. a b c Julian Hans Moscow: Putin's unofficial Syria mercenaries . In: Tages-Anzeiger, Tages-Anzeiger . August 30, 2016, ISSN  1422-9994 ( tagesanzeiger.ch [accessed on August 18, 2017]).
  11. The USA imposed sanctions on PMCs 'Wagner' and companies of the businessman Prigozhin , Novaya Gazeta, June 20, 2017
  12. ^ Andrew E. Kramer: Russia Deploys a Potent Weapon in Syria: The Profit Motive . In: The New York Times . July 5, 2017, ISSN  0362-4331 ( nytimes.com [accessed August 18, 2017]).
  13. a b c d The Russian "Wagner Unit" goes to war in Syria. n-tv. https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article155218701/Die-russische-Wagner-Einheit-sehen-in-den-Syrien-Krieg.html , accessed on August 18, 2017
  14. a b c The "Wagner" troop: Putin's secret mercenary in the Kremlin? In: stern.de . January 26, 2017 ( stern.de [accessed August 18, 2017]).
  15. ^ A b c Andrew E. Kramer: Russia Deploys a Potent Weapon in Syria: The Profit Motive . In: The New York Times . July 5, 2017, ISSN  0362-4331 ( nytimes.com [accessed August 18, 2017]).
  16. a b Where are the Syrians in Assad's Syrian Arab Army? In: The Telegraph . ( telegraph.co.uk [accessed August 22, 2017]).
  17. a b c d e More Russian Fighters from Private 'Wagner Group' Die in Syria . ( themoscowtimes.com [accessed August 18, 2017]).
  18. a b Revealed: Russia's 'Secret Syria Mercenaries' . In: Sky News . ( sky.com [accessed August 19, 2017]).
  19. The deaths of at least ten Russians in Syria in the past few months became known , Novaya Gazeta, March 22, 2017
  20. Natalja Vasiljewa: "Russian mercenaries conquer oil fields - and a company makes money from them" Welt / N24 of December 13, 2017
  21. ^ Russian mercenaries allegedly killed in Mozambique. defenseweb.co.za from November 1, 2019
  22. ^ A b Allison Quinn: Vladimir Putin sent Russian mercenaries to "fight in Syria and Ukraine". In: The Daily Telegraph . March 20, 2016, accessed January 27, 2019 .
  23. Julian Hans : Putin's unofficial Syria mercenaries. In: Tages-Anzeiger . August 30, 2016, accessed January 27, 2019 .
  24. ^ A b Willi Neumann & Steffen Dobbert : Russia: Putin's mercenaries. In: Zeit Online . February 6, 2017, accessed January 27, 2019 .
  25. Putin supported the establishment of private military companies in Russia , RIA, April 11, 2012
  26. Novaya Gazeta found a connection with the expert Neyolov, who was arrested for disclosing state secrets to the PMC Wagner , Novaya Gazeta, November 3, 2018
  27. You are here! , Echo Moskvy , November 16, 2018
  28. ^ The first and last battle of the "Slavic Corps" , Novaya Gazeta, October 5, 2017
  29. a b The Last Battle of the “Slavonic Corps” , The Interpretmag, accessed on August 18, 2017
  30. 2 Jailed in Russia's First-Ever Mercenary Conviction. Moscow Times, October 28, 2014
  31. a b RBC Magazine: Russian private military company 'spotted' in Syria . In: Russia Beyond The Headlines . August 26, 2016 ( rbth.com [accessed August 21, 2017]).
  32. ^ Marc Bennetts: "Families ask Kremlin to admit Russian mercenaries killed in Syria" The Guardian of February 16, 2018
  33. NZZ , February 21, 2018, page 2; "The Russian Foreign Ministry has admitted (...) that several dozen Russians and citizens from former Soviet republics"
  34. ^ [1] Reuters, February 15, 2018
  35. "I prepared a surprise for Assad from February 6 to 9 and discussed this with the Kremlin." , Novaya Gazeta, February 23, 2018
  36. Russian journalists shot dead in Central Africa were not tortured , Die Welt, August 2, 2018
  37. ^ Andrew Roth: Man who filmed killing of Syrian identified as Russian mercenary. The Guardian November 21, 2019
  38. 3 countries where Russia's shadowy Wagner Group mercenaries are known to operate . In: Business Insider . ( businessinsider.de [accessed on May 29, 2018]).
  39. ^ Russian presence in the Central African Republic - Conflict Intelligence Team. Retrieved July 18, 2018 (ru-RU).
  40. Mercenaries from Russian Wagner Private Military Company appear in Central African Republic . In: uawire.org . ( uawire.org [accessed July 18, 2018]).
  41. The Central African Republic - a pawn on the Russian chessboard , Le Monde, December 7, 2018
  42. Где было опасно, там был он - where it was dangerous, there he was. Novaya Gazeta , July 31, 2018 (Russian).
  43. RuNet Echo: Russian journalists killed in Central African Republic. In: GlobalVoices. globalvoices.org, July 31, 2018, accessed August 1, 2018 .
  44. Reporter killed in research for Kremlin critics in Africa orf.at, accessed August 1, 2018.
  45. ^ Murder in the Central African Republic: "Russian journalists had weapons"? Incredible details from the African driver told the crew. , Novaya Gazeta, August 18, 2018
  46. Turbulent. Novaya Gazeta, August 1, 2018; “The Legend of the Ten Turban Wearers”; “In all Russian media it is now: 'Russian journalists killed by Arabs' or 'There were ten Arabs in turbans'. But why do you tell the story of a person [the driver who survived] who has lured the team into a trap? "
  47. Khodorkovsky told about the death "under strange circumstances" of a witness in the case of the murder of journalists in the Central African Republic , Novaya Gazeta, September 20, 2018
  48. ^ Richard Sisk: US General Troubled by Russian Mercenaries in Africa. military.com dated April 3, 2019
  49. a b You didn't really know where you were going: 10 to 35 Russian mercenaries died in the civil war in Libya. , Meduza , October 9, 2019
  50. Russia's Favorite Mercenaries , The Atlantic, August 27, 2018
  51. Something is being prepared in this kitchen , Novaya Gazeta, November 9, 2018
  52. ↑ Field kitchen , Novaya Gazeta, November 10, 2018
  53. Alec Luhn, Dominic Nicholls: Russian mercenaries back Libyan rebel leader as Moscow seeks influence in Africa. telegraph.co.uk of March 3, 2019
  54. Patrick Wintour and Chris Stephen: Battle for Tripoli escalates as fighting nears Libyan capital. The Guardian April 7, 2019
  55. Russian Snipers, Missiles and Warplanes Try to Tilt Libyan War. New York Times, November 5, 2019
  56. Libyan Officials cite evidence of Russian mercenaries in was. aljazeera.com from December 5, 2019
  57. Russian security company fights against government in Libya. According to UN experts, a military company affiliated with Russia is fighting against the United Nations-backed government in the Libyan civil war. In: Zeit Online. Zeit Online GmbH, May 7, 2020, accessed on May 7, 2020 .
  58. In Libya there was talk about the withdrawal of the mercenaries of "PMC Wagner" from the front in Tripoli , Novaya Gazeta, January 13, 2020
  59. UN confirms Russian mercenaries are fighting in Libya: diplomats , AFP, May 7, 2020
  60. https://www.defenceweb.co.za/security/national-security/russian-mercenaries-allegedly-killed-in-mozambique/
  61. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/10/31/7-kremlin-linked-mercenaries-killed-in-mozambique-in-october-sources-a67996
  62. https://clubofmozambique.com/news/in-push-for-africa-russias-wagner-mercenaries-are-out-of-their-depth-in-mozambique-the-moscow-times-147483/
  63. On the hunt for diamonds and uranium. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from January 14, 2019