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What is the Wagner Group and what does it have to do with Russia?

Workers put final touches on the "PMC Wagner Centre", associated with businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner PMC.
Workers put final touches on the "PMC Wagner Centre", associated with businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner PMC.

In the Donbas region of Ukraine, the battle for the city of Bakhmut has been raging for months. But not everyone involved fights strictly for their nation.

The manpower on the Russian front of this conflict is in large part made up of a private military company known asthe Wagner Group

It’s not the first time the Wagner Group has been connected to the Russian state, even though private military companies are technicallyillegalunder the Russian constitution. It’s believed they were some of the“little green men”who showed up in Crimea in 2014. 

Discerning official ties between the Wagner Group and the Kremlin is tough. The group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin have a long-standing relationship. For years, Prigozhin was a caterer for the Kremlin and was known as“Putin’s Chef.”He’s only recently been publicly identified as the leader of the Wagner Group. 

The mercenaries aren’t just fighting in Ukraine. The group has also deployed in the Central African Republic, Syria, and Sudan. It’s been accused of harassment and otherhuman rights violations in the latter conflict. The U.S. has officially labeled them a“transnational criminal organization.”

We put together a panel of experts to discuss what the Wagner Group is doing in Ukraine and other parts of the world.

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

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Jorgelina Manna-Rea