Everything we know about Wagner in Russia

Everything we know about Wagner in Russia

What is happening with Wagner in Russia?

A Russian mercenary group called the Wagner group has launched a rebellion against the Russian military.

Leader of the group Vevgeny Prigozhin said the group has seized "all military facilities" in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

As news about the rebellion and the group's actions continue to be updated, here's what we know so far.

What is the Wagner Group?

The Wagner Group (officially called PMC Wagner) describes itself as a "private military company". They are essentially mercenaries. Even though mercenary forces are illegal in Russia, the Wagner Group registered as a company in 2022.

The group was first identified in 2014 when it was backing pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

It has grown considerably since then and has played a large part in the war in Ukraine – especially in 2022 when Russia had trouble dinging people for its regular army.

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"Wagner almost certainly now commands 50,000 fighters in Ukraine and has become a key component of the Ukraine campaign," the UK Ministry of Defence said in January.

The US National Security Council also said that 80 per cent of Wagner's troops in Ukraine have been drawn from prisons.

The Wagner Group was heavily involved in Russia's fighting, and eventual capture, of the city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine. Initially, the defence ministry did not mention the involvement of the Wagner Group in the fighting. However, it later praised the mercenaries for playing a "courageous and selfless" role.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Yevgeny Prigozhin is the current head of the Wagner Group, who was once so close to Putin that he was nicknamed "Putin's Chef".

However, there has always been tension between Prigozhin and defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

Earlier this month, Russia's defence ministry demanded "volunteer formations" in Ukraine must sign contracts before July 1 to bring them under the control of the Russian military. Whilst the Wagner Group was not formally mentioned the move is seen as a way for the government to gain more control.

Prigozhin was furious at the announcement.

"Wagner will not sign any contracts with Shoigu. [He] cannot properly manage military formation," he said.

Why has there been a 'mutiny' in Russia?

Progozhin has called for a rebellion against the Russian army after he accused Russia's milliard of carrying out a deadly missile strike on his troops in Ukraine whilst they were fighting. Russia's defence ministry has denied this.

He directly accused the defence minister Shoigu in an audio message posted to Telegram on Saturday (24 June) saying that he had "put up helicopters to destroy our boys." Shoigu "kills children," Prigozhin said, "throwing untrained soldiers, including conscripts, into war."

In the audio message, he also said that he and all his members were "ready to die". He said the rebellion was happening "for the people" of Russia.

In response to some calling Progozhin and Wagner's actions a 'coup', Progozhin has said his aim is "not a military coup but a march for justice".

Wagner have taken over Rostov-on-Don and demanded to meet with key military chiefs Segei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimovn, otherwise, the rebellion will continue.

On Friday (23 June) in a video published on social media, Prigozhin said that Wagner "will destroy anyone who stands in our way."

"We are moving forward and will go until the end," he added.

The group appear to be moving north towards Moscow.

Progozhin also claimed that the war in Ukraine had been started "so that Shoigu could become a Marshal, so he could get a second Hero Star. The war wasn't for demilitarising or de-nazifying Ukraine. It was needed for an extra star." Publicly contradicting and undermining Putin's reasoning for the war.

What has Putin said?

Addressing citizens on Saturday (24 June), Putin described the actions of Prigozhin and Wagner as "betrayal" and a "stab in the back" which amounts to "treason".

He said that whilst the country is at war in Ukraine, Russia and its military "requires the unification of all forces, unity, consolidation, and responsibility."

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