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The Wagner Group Is Heading Closer to Ukraine: Who Are They?

Wagner Group
Who is the Wagner Group? Image Credit: Creative Commons.

In what seems like an old play from the Russian hybrid warfare handbook, the Russian private military company Wagner Group is withdrawing its mercenaries from around the world close to Ukraine.

According to an article by The Daily Beast, Wagner Group has pulled out dozens of its paramilitary troops from the Central African Republic and is repositioning them to Eastern Europe.

Wagner Group in Ukraine?

As a private military company, Wagner Group has very close ties with the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The paramilitary organization was founded by a retired Russian military intelligence officer and is bankrolled by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted Prigozhin for his role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Usually when we hear that some have left we find out that they are just a handful—sometimes five or six people within a month. It’s the first time we are hearing that dozens have departed in a month. Yes, they share intelligence with us. But that’s where it often ends. We rarely know anything about their itenary [sic] or plans,” a military officer with the Central African Republic Army told The Daily Beast.

Were Wagner Group to be deploying into Eastern Ukraine or participating in a potential invasion of the rest of the country, it would be returning to the scene of the crime. The paramilitary group first made its name in 2014 during the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

“We have specifically been told by their supervisors that about 20 Russians departed this January for Eastern Europe. What we understand is that the Russians who’ve left, and those who will leave later on, are doing so as part of their assignment rotation policy and that they would be replaced in due course,” another CAR official told The Daily Beast.

Wagner Group recruits mainly former military personnel and deploys them in hot spots around the world in order to support or advance Russian foreign policy interests. Wagner Group provides direct action, combat advising, and foreign internal defense services to countries or forces that Moscow wants to bolster but without directly getting involved. The Wagner Group offers the Kremlin the necessary deniability to save face on the international stage but still pursue its goals.

“The West Is Not Listening”

Meanwhile, Putin offered a rare public view of the situation in Ukraine. The Russian president complained that the West isn’t listening to Russia’s demands. The Kremlin wants the U.S. and the West to agree to stop the expansion of NATO in countries that were once in the Russian sphere of influence.

“We’re told every country has the right to choose their own means of security. We agree with that. But it seems to me that the United States does not care that much about Ukrainian security — maybe they think about it somewhere in the background. But their main task is to restrict the development of Russia,” Putin said.

The Russian leader went further and asked what would happen if Ukraine was a member of NATO and sought to start military operations in the annexed Crimea.


President Putin watches the Zapad 2021 joint strategic exercises of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

“Let’s imagine that Ukraine is a member of NATO, is stuffed with weapons, … and begins an operation in the Crimea. Do we have to fight with the NATO bloc? Has anyone thought anything about it? It seems not,” he said.

However, the Russian leader conveniently brushed over the fact that Crimea was Ukrainian territory until 2014, when his forces invaded the peninsula.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.