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What is the Wagner Group doing today?

A year ago, Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private army Wagner, instigated an uprising against Moscow. He kept the country on tenterhooks for 24 hours. What happened to the group?

Björn Blaschke

No one rises up against the Kremlin without being punished. After the end of the Wagner uprising, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the group, was therefore called a “walking dead man” in Russia. For two months. Then Prigozhin and other men from the Wagner leadership died in a mysterious plane crash. Among the dead was Dimitry Utkin, a co-founder of the mercenary group. Utkin's nom de guerre was Wagner. The group's name was derived from him.

“Only the moon in the sky, only war in the heart and the crazy tango of death. So come, Wagner, play…” is the chorus of the Wagner anthem. It has not yet died down. Too many people in Russia appreciate the fearlessness and also the brutality with which Wagner's mercenaries acted in Ukraine.

Dissolution of the Wagner Group

Sympathy for others, however, represents a danger for the Kremlin, said Valery Shiryaev, a military expert, recently on the YouTube channel of the opposition Novaya Gazeta. “That is why the decision was made to dilute this concentrated solution in smaller vessels.” In other words, to disband the Wagner group and distribute its mercenaries to other forces.

Apti Alaudinov, commander of the Chechen Ahmat troops, confirmed this last April. Wagner no longer exists. “The fact is that we have reached an agreement on the formation of a regiment of 3,000 men.” As part of this regiment, ex-Wagner men now belong to the Ahmat special forces unit. Ahmat is also said to be currently deployed near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Deployment in some African countries

Other Wagner militiamen are now under the command of the Russian Ministry of Defense as members of the “Afrikanski Korpus”, the “Afrikakorps”. The units are active in many African states, especially those that have failed or are in chaos – in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, the Central African Republic and Libya. They are always trying to support the dubious leaders of the respective countries and to “secure” their treasures: gold, oil, rare earths. Or, as Wagner's ex-commander Anton Yelisarov put it in February: “We are working for the good of Russia, and quite successfully.”

And the ruler of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko? He negotiated the compromise between the Kremlin and Wagner's boss Prigozhin a year ago and invited Wagner to come to his territory. But Belarus does not seem to be a very popular area of ​​operation.

In other words, Shiryaev said the same thing a few days ago on the YouTube channel of Novaya Gazeta: “Some, I think a very small part, are said to have stayed in Belarus with Lukashenko as instructors.” Some of Wagner's mercenaries were also integrated into the National Guard. And: “A very large part stayed at home,” said Gazeta.

Recruiting mercenaries from prison

But this also presents a problem: the Wagner leadership around Prigozhin had recruited many mercenaries in Russian prisons – in return for immunity from prosecution after their mission. As a result, dozens of examples of convicted murderers, rapists and other serious criminals are known from all over Russia who survived battles and are living in freedom.

This is said to have increased the number of domestic violence and crimes in Russia in general. Not all of them may have committed crimes, but after the uprising last year and before his death, Prigozhin claimed that 32,000 convicts he had recruited had returned to Russia from the war.

Björn Blaschke, ARD Mokau, currently Tbilisi, tagesschau, 24.06.2024 13:19

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