Is it possible to surpass the brutality of Nazi war criminals – it seems the Private Military Company Wagner is out to do just that.

Even the name is no coincidence – Richard Wagner was Hitler’s favorite composer. Word has it that the head of the Wagner group, Dmitry Utkin, is a fan of the Third Reich, and, therefore, gave the group this name.

The Wagner PMC mercenaries have been involved in a long list of crimes during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine – atrocities in Bucha; the recent attack on Azov war prisoners in the Olenivka correctional colony. Even the militant that castrated a Ukrainian prisoner with a clerical knife in the latest video could also be a member of the Wagner group.

PMC Wagner is a Russian private military organization that, according to journalistic investigations, is financed through Yevgeny Prigozhin – a member of Putin’s “inner circle”. PMC Wagner took part in military operations in Ukraine in 2014, in Syria, Lybia, and in African countries.


The US Department of State also confirms this information by placing sanctions on the alleged leaders of the PMC Wagner group. The first official source mentioning this unit is the 2017 US Treasury Sanctions List, which listed PMC Wagner among Ukrainian separatist units. Dmitry Utkin is mentioned and considered the “founder and leader” of the PMC by the US Treasury.

Not Working Alone

Wagner is not the only private military company participating in Russia’s war in Ukraine. The PWC Redut is also involved, but it collaborates closely with the Russian army. The Russian Ministry of Defense coordinates all the PWC’s activities within their “special operation” in Ukraine. There are no borders between the Russian army and PWCs in general, but Wagner still differs.

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Putin also warned the standoff between Moscow and the West was coming “unacceptably close to the point of no return” and boasted that Moscow “possesses the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

According to Medusa journalist investigations and witnesses in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, PMC Wagner has weapons, ammunition, and even military planes.

In April, Bellingcat reported that 8,000 Wagner militants participated in the so-called Russian “special operation” in Ukraine. During the first three months of the war, 3,000 were killed.


Exceptional Brutality and Cruelty

However, from April, several PWC Wagner recruitment drives PWC have been conducted in correctional colonies in Russia. According to Russian human rights organizations, about 1,000 prisoners agreed to cooperate from just two jails.

Wagner’s militants are known for their exceptional brutality and cruelty. Due to the recruitment of mercenaries from correctional colonies, their atrocities cross all human boundaries. Wagner’s military have committed the most terrible war crimes in Ukraine.

Ukrainian intelligence officers believe that the recent killing of 53 Ukrainian Azov war prisoners in the Olenivka colony in Donetsk Region was arranged by the Wagner mercenaries.

The bodies of 1,314 civilians, killed by Russian invaders during the occupation, were found in Kyiv region. This was stated by the head of the Main Directorate of the National Police of the Kyiv region.

Suspects of war crimes in the Kyiv region have been identified. The SBU published the suspects’ personal data – names, dates of birth, places of service, and photos. Two of them turned out to be natives of Belarus – these are Sergei Sazanov and Alexander Stupnitsky. According to Ukrainian information, these men all serve in PWC Wagner.


Sent in to do Their Worst

However, it seems that the Russian military leadership considers the PWC Wagner to be the most professional when it comes to the most responsible missions of a “special operation” in Ukraine – the elimination of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

At the end of February, the British newspapers Times and Independent reported that up to 400 mercenaries of PMC Wagner allegedly appeared in Kyiv to seize the city and kill the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

When these attempts failed, and Russian troops had to retreat from the Kyiv region, word spread about the first wave of mobilization of criminals from correctional colonies to PWC Wagner. At the same time, Russian Human Rights Organizations reported on the use of retreat-blocking detachments by the Wagner militants.

Wagner’s fighters are also known for their cruelty, even towards their own chief officers who committed mistakes in military strategy. There is some evidence of the Wagner militants killing their commanders for unprofessionalism.


According to the testimonies of militants who took part in the offensive in Donbas, with whom the Russian Medusa journalists communicated, the Wagner participants were thrown into the most dangerous areas of the front line and played an essential role in the capture of Potasnaya in the Luhansk Region. The Wagner militants were awarded medals “for the capture of Popasnaya,” and their owner Prigozhin won the title of the hero of Russia.

A History of Criminal Activity in War Zones

Wagner also operated on the territory of Ukraine at the beginning of 2014. In particular, the Wagner PMC was alleged to have played a decisive role in the battles for Lugansk airport and Debaltseve in Donetsk region. The Ukrainian troops were surrounded and suffered severe losses during the offensive, while the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR continued to exist thanks to this victory.

However, Wagner mercenaries do not limit their criminal actions to Ukraine. There are cases of execution and torture of Syrian prisoners, terror in Mali, and atrocities by Wagner mercenaries in other African states.

In 2021 UN experts released a report accusing PWC Wagner of serious human rights violations in the Central African Republic. RFI [Radio France International] was able to gain exclusive access to confidential documents, as well as testimonies from victims, that implicate employees of Russian private military companies in extrajudicial executions, arrests, torture, robbery, and rape.

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