What is the Wagner Group and what happens to the mercenaries now?

The U.S. government says the group has been involved in Russian-backed operations around the world, most notably in Ukraine.
Posted at 4:24 PM, Jun 27, 2023

The Wagner Group thrust itself into the international spotlight when its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, marched troops toward Moscow late last week. 

What is the Wagner Group?

The Wagner Group is a private military company founded in 2014. 

The U.S. government says the group has been involved in Russian-backed operations around the world, most notably in Ukraine. 

In January, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the group of human rights violations, including the "targeting" of women, children and civilians through "acts of violence or abduction."

The U.S. has sanctioned the individuals and entities linked to the Wagner Group numerous times for its reported atrocities across the world. 

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Yevgeny Prigozhin has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin that go back decades. He earned the nickname "Putin's chef" after the Russian president took an interest in his restaurant business. Prigozhin reportedly catered events for the Kremlin and obtained what are described as generous loans from Russian-backed banks. 

The BBC reports that Prigozhin began building his army in 2014. It was reportedly instrumental in Russia taking over Crimea. 

The Wagner Group relies on mercenaries

Thousands of mercenaries make up the Wagner Group. The organization reportedly uses social media to find recruits to join the army. 

When the group marched toward Moscow last week, Prigozhin claimed he had 25,000 fighters under his command. 

Prigozhin called for an armed rebellion against Russia, claiming the country's military leadership was responsible for attacks on Wagner convoys and field camps located in Ukraine.

Prigozhin called for his troops to stand down on Saturday, saying he didn't want there to be any bloodshed. 

What happens now?

The Russian government said it dropped charges against those involved in the mutiny last week. However, Prigozhin's whereabouts are still unknown. Russian officials said he would be exiled to Belarus. As for his fighters, Putin praised them in a speech on Monday. The Institute for the Study of War, a nonprofit research group, believes that may have been an effort to retain the fighters so they can continue contributing to Putin's invasion in Ukraine.