Correspondent in Moscow
The call Private Military Company (ChVK in its Russian acronym) Wagner appeared, according to different information, in the separatist east of Ukraine, in Donbass, in April 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and in the framework of the hybrid war unleashed by the Kremlin against Kiev.
The idea of creating these mercenary units arose in Crimea during the annexation, since regular camouflaged troops (without identifying marks) were used for the first time, but also Cossacks, mercenaries and, in general, people of arms. Reservists who had been military, members of elite forces or the secret services.
This conglomerate of forces it was mainly used in eastern Ukraine and it was there that he acquired the name ChVK Wagner.
The following year, in the fall of 2015, this mercenary unit appeared in Syria, within the framework of the Russian military intervention launched in aid of Bashar al Assad.
Attacked by the US
It was in Syria that more information about the Wagners surfaced and helped its members they published in social networks photos of uniform and armed, obtained in different combat actions. The Russian and international press put even more focus on them after they were attacked by US forces.
In a US-led international coalition air operation on February 7, 2018, these Russian paramilitaries suffered hundreds of casualties when they tried to seize an oil field from the Kurds in Deir ez Zor. Moscow then denied any link with them.
The man who, according to all indications, finances this group of fighters is the Russian tycoon, Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as ‘Putin’s cook’close friend of the president. One of his first business activities had to do with catering for the Kremlin. He also founded the St. Petersburg ‘troll factory’ and ‘hackers’.
But the creator and head of the Wagners was Dmitri Utkin, former commander in chief of the special forces detachment number 700 of one of the brigades of the GRU (Russian military intelligence). He was decorated by President Vladimir Putin.
The Wagners’ headquarters are believed to be in the town of Mólkino, located south of the city of Krasnodar. It is also quartered there the 10th special forces brigade of the GRU. Different publications maintain that the activity of the Wagners is supervised by the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
Presence in Africa
After Ukraine, Syria and with the aim of militarily supporting rebel regimes or factions favorable to Moscow’s interests in the region, the Wagners were posted to Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic, where the opposition to the Kremlin accuses them of murdering three Russian journalists in 2018. The United States also denounced the presence of these mercenaries in Venezuela in support of Nicolás Maduro.
Currently, Russian mercenaries are also present in countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Mozambique and, apparently, Burkina Faso after the recent coup. The Malian authorities asked the Wagners for help last September to confront Islamic fundamentalism in the face of the alleged “inefficiency” of the French Army
A UN report attributes atrocities to these Russian paramilitaries such as “torture, summary executions, indiscriminate killings of unarmed civilians, occupation of schools and looting” to the point that they could be charged with “war crimes”.
Last December, the European Union agreed to apply sanctions to the Wagner group for its “destabilizing” action, in Ukraine especially, and in other countries. The measure affects 8 individuals, Utkin among them, and 3 companies dedicated to the extraction and marketing of oil in Syria. Prigozhin was already sanctioned in a separate package.