Putin’s Silent Weapon: The Wagner Group

Visitors wearing military camouflage stand at the entrance of the ‘PMC Wagner Centre’, associated with the founder of the Wagner private military group (PMC)
OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

Putin’s Silent Weapon: The Wagner Group

Meet the private military company helping Putin commit war crimes across the globe.

In the shadows of international conflicts, a cruel force has been operating under the radar as an extension of the ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin: the Wagner Group. Everywhere they go, they are accused of brutality, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Who exactly is this group, and why are they so important to Putin?

The Wagner Group is a private military company comprised of mercenaries. Over the years, it has helped the Russian government fulfill its geopolitical ambitions, often paired with violence and war crimes. On January 26, the United States Treasury Department labeled the Wagner Group a significant “transnational criminal organization.”

While Wagner was originally a highly secretive operation, the group has recently garnered more attention because of the crucial aid it provides Putin in the Ukraine War. It was Wagner, not the Russian Army, that made the first significant Russian gain in months, when they claimed to have captured the town of Soledar in January.

The Wagner Group also spearheaded the Russian offensive in Bakhmut, over which Putin finally claimed victory on May 20 after months of brutal battle. The White House estimated about half of the 20,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine since December were from Wagner.

In April, a pro-Russia media channel posted a video of mercenaries from the Wagner Group beheading two Ukrainian soldiers and cutting off their hands. Similar videos of torture and beheadings by Wagner have popped up in Syria, where the group has been fighting alongside the Assad government for over five years.

Wagner’s reputation for brutality aligns with its reported founder, Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian soldier with Nazi tattoos. Richard Wagner, the company’s namesake, was an anti-Semite and Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer. Utkin reportedly used “Wagner” as a battlefield call sign.

However, most of the group’s actions can be tied to a more influential figure: Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Putin’s Chef

In 1981, Prigozhin was sentenced to 12 years in prison for robbery, fraud and involving an adolescent in crime. After his release, he established a successful restaurant in St. Petersburg that became well known in the 1990s by celebrities and businessmen, including one man who would become one of the most prominent on the world scene: Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin developed a close relationship with Putin and became known as “Putin’s chef.”

It is believed that during one of their interactions in early 2014, when the Kremlin was struggling to deny involvement in Ukraine, Prigozhin pitched the idea of using a private military company to Putin and started recruiting soldiers. He said:

I, like many other businessmen, went to training grounds … and tried to throw around money in order to recruit a group that would go to protect Russian people. … From that moment, on 1 May 2014, a group of patriots was born, which later came to be called the Wagner Battalion. … I am proud that I was able to defend their right to protect the interests of their country.

Since then, Prigozhin has helped carry out Putin’s international ambitions, which became especially clear when he ramped up recruitment of forces to fight in Ukraine. Prigozhin personally visited prisons across Russia to recruit new soldiers, promising them release after six months of fighting in the bloodiest battles of the war.

“Our ideal candidate is 30 to 45 years old,” Prigozhin explained. “Strong, confident, hardy. Ideally, he’s served at least 15 years. Ideally, he’ll have another 15 years, or more, ahead of him. He’s in for multiple murders, severe assaults, robberies. If he’s [assaulted] an official or cop, even better.”

According to U.S. estimates, over 50,000 prisoners have joined the Wagner Group, comprising 90 percent of its members.

Wagner in Africa

Most people following the Ukraine War have likely heard of the Wagner Group. Many are unaware, however, that it has been inconspicuously active in international conflict zones across the globe, especially in Africa.

The Wagner Group often fights alongside governments in Africa against rebels. In return, the group is usually paid in gold, oil and other natural resources, allowing Putin to extend Russian power and influence intercontinentally.

In the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), the Wagner Group got involved when the president turned to Russia for help to fight rebel groups in 2017. In return, the group received gold and diamond licenses and deeply integrated itself into the government.

The United Nations believes there are now several thousand Wagner operatives in the C.A.R., who have been committing human rights abuses including “arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and summary execution.”

The group also left a trail of human rights abuses in Mali. In the town Moura, Malian soldiers and unidentified “armed white men” executed at least 500 people and sexually assaulted or tortured dozens of others during a five-day operation, according to the UN Human Rights Office. Although the identity of the white men was not officially clear, Wagner was no doubt involved.

In April 2019, Wagner fighters in Libya joined military commander and coup leader Khalifa Hiftar in an assault on the Libyan government in its capital, Tripoli. During the conflict, the group installed numerous land mines throughout Tripoli that have been killing innocent Libyans. Since then, Wagner’s presence in Libya has increased to roughly 2,000 mercenaries entrenched in and around military bases and oil facilities.

“A credible and transparent international inquiry is needed to ensure justice for the many civilians and deminers unlawfully killed and maimed by these weapons,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Unfortunately, justice will most likely never be ensured for the thousands who have suffered at the hands of the Wagner Group.

It is extremely difficult to impose any accountability on the Wagner Group for its actions in Africa, especially because the nations’ governments are often involved. In most cases, local forces are complicit or even participating alongside Wagner. And because the group is composed of mercenaries, it is difficult to identify its men and operations.

Perhaps the most valuable asset the Wagner Group provides for Putin is “plausible deniability,” which means that private military companies like Wagner have no official ties to the Russian government. Putin conveniently uses this plausible deniability to further his international interests and do whatever he wants without consequences.

The ‘Prince of Russia’

The evil perpetrated by Russia through the Wagner Group can be attributed to one powerful man: Vladimir Putin. Wagner is Putin’s weapon of choice to commit unpunished war crimes, violently fulfilling his geopolitical ambitions. And Bible prophecy shows that the terror caused by Putin’s armies will only intensify.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has identified Vladimir Putin as the “chief prince” of Ezekiel 38:2—better translated as “prince of Rosh.” In his booklet The Prophesied ‘Prince of Russia,’ he explains in detail how Putin’s evil is fulfilling Bible prophecy.

No leader in Russia has equaled Putin’s diabolical evil since Joseph Stalin. … His track record, his nationality and his ideology show that he is fulfilling a linchpin Bible prophecy. The time frame of his rule also shows that nobody else could be fulfilling the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecy. … We need to watch Vladimir Putin closely. He is the “prince of Rosh” whom God inspired Ezekiel to write about 2,500 years ago!

It is important to scrutinize anything associated with Putin, especially a clandestine force such as the Wagner Group. Mr. Flurry explains that Putin, the “prince of Russia,” will eventually lead a 200 million-man army that will bring about the worst suffering mankind has ever experienced (Revelation 9:16). He writes: “[Y]our Bible prophesies that [Putin] will be responsible for more deaths than any leader in man’s history!

It can be frightening to look at these events from a prophetic perspective. However, Mr. Flurry also explains there is spectacularly good news tied in to all these terrifying prophecies:

Mr. Putin’s warfare is going to lead directly into the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus Christ knows precisely how to deal with all of the leaders like the prophesied prince of Russia!

What we are seeing in Russia ultimately leads to the transition from man ruling man to God ruling man! And it is almost here!

The fulfillment of these prophecies will lead into a time when there will be no more brutality, torture or killings. Evil military groups such as Wagner will no longer exist, and mankind will finally be able to live in joy and happiness under God’s rule.

To understand more detail about these Bible prophecies, order your free copy of The Prophesied ‘Prince of Russia’