EXPLAINED: What does Russia’s Wagner group do?

The recent failed mutiny by 's Wagner group has raised concerns about the future of the organization's extensive military and commercial activities across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Here is an overview of what Wagner has been involved in and where:

Ukraine

Wagner entered shortly after the invasion began in early 2022. By the summer, it had recruited thousands of prisoners to fight on the front lines.

In December, the group played a central role in the battle for Bakhmut, with an estimated 40,000 prisoner recruits fighting.

Wagner's leaders credited themselves for Russian successes in Bakhmut while criticizing the regular military and Defense Ministry leadership.

Belarus

Wagner's leader, Prigozhin, arrived in Belarus under a deal negotiated by President Alexander Lukashenko. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the group's fighters would have the option to relocate there.

Satellite images near Asipovichi, southeast of Minsk, indicate new construction, suggesting the establishment of a Wagner facility.

Syria:

Since Russia's official military operations in Syria began in 2015, Wagner has played a role in ground operations and security, working alongside Russian contractors. The group suffered losses when several hundred Wagner fighters were killed by U.S. forces in 2018.

Wagner took control of the al-Shaer oil field and owns Evro Polis, a company that receives a 25% share of profits from multiple oil fields. Wagner also recruited former Syrian rebel fighters, including for mercenary work in Libya.

Libya:

Wagner entered Libya in 2019 to support the assault on Tripoli led by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar. The Department of Defense stated that Wagner's support for Haftar appeared to have been funded by the United Arab Emirates.

Wagner deployed up to 1,200 personnel in Libya and operated air defense systems and fighter jets from Jufra airbase. The group also worked with foreign fighters from , , and other countries.

Central African Republic

Russian mercenaries, including Wagner personnel, intervened in the Central African Republic's civil war in 2018. The Russian ambassador to the country stated that 1,890 “Russian instructors” were present.

Wagner reportedly gained logging rights and control of a gold mine in CAR, leading to the imposition of U.S. sanctions on a CAR company involved in financing Wagner through illicit gold dealings.

Mali:

Russian fighters in , including Wagner, have been described as trainers assisting local troops against Islamist militants.

After a coup in 2021, the government enlisted Wagner's services, reportedly paying around $10.8 million per month.

Wagner has faced accusations of involvement in incidents resulting in civilian casualties.

Sudan:

Wagner's alleged activities in Sudan include gold mining, spreading disinformation, and suppressing pro-democracy protests.

While Russia has connections to both military factions in Sudan, Wagner is believed to have a closer relationship with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The U.S. accused Wagner of supplying the RSF with surface-to-air missiles, contributing to prolonged armed conflict in the region.

These developments have attracted international attention and scrutiny, with Western nations expressing concern over Wagner's activities.

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