A trove of classified documents leaked this week revealed a group of Russian mercenaries operating in Haiti – under the watchful eye of the United States.
The terrifying group went viral in 2022 after a video of members bludgeoning a deserter to death with a sledgehammer went viral online, allegedly offering to help Haiti’s beleaguered government confront violent gangs, documents say.
The Wagner Group has already established a foothold for Russia in at least half a dozen African countries as well as ties in Turkey and Syria.
While the Kremlin’s depleted military capacity was exposed in the intelligence breach, it appeared that the mercenary group was still a powerful force.
officials say It may be impossible to trace the original source of the leak Because thousands of US government officials may have the necessary security clearances to access the documents.
A trove of classified documents leaked this week revealed that a group of Russian Wagner mercenaries are operating in Haiti — under the watchful eye of the United States.
Private mercenary group founder Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted he founded, led and financed the group last year after denying it for years.
For years, YEvgeny Prigozhin, who is close to Russian President Putin, has denied any connection to the Wagner Group. But in September, he admitted that he had founded, led and financed the group.
Since then, he has been the face of the group, which was notorious for its extreme brutality and cruelty.
In November 2022, a video surfaced online showing former Wagner contractor Hammadi Bouta, a Syrian army deserter, being beaten to death with a sledgehammer after he allegedly fled to the Ukrainian side and was recaptured.
The leaked documents claim that Prigozhin created an army of 22,000 freed conscripted Russian convicts in the Bakhmut region.
The group also entered NATO territory and secretly met with “Turkish contacts” in February, looking for weapons to fight against Ukraine. It is not clear if they collected any weapons.
Hammadi Bouta was a Syrian fugitive executed by the Wagner Group in 2022
The Wagner Group has already established a foothold for Russia in half a dozen African countries
But the documents indicated that the West African country of Mali is an outpost for obtaining weapons from Turkey.
A Wagner employee is cited in the documents as revealing the presence of more than 1,645 Wagner employees in Mali.
“This is an interesting sign that there is a decline in their capabilities,” Candace Rondo, a Wagner expert and senior director at New America, a Washington think tank, told The New York Times.
“Going further certainly indicates the impact of US and European sanctions on the deterioration of the pipeline.”
Who owns the WAGNER collection?
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1981 for robbery and assault, started a restaurant business in Saint Petersburg after his release from prison. In this capacity, he became acquainted with Putin, who served as deputy mayor of the city in the 1990s.
Prigozhin, 61, used his connections with Putin to develop a catering business and won lucrative Russian government contracts that earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef”.
He later expanded into other businesses, including media outlets and the infamous “Troll Factory” that led to him being accused in the United States of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Prigozhin denied any association with the Wagner Group before admitting ownership of the company in September.
Prigozhin is confident in Russian President Vladimir Putin
The documents, which included reports from late February to early March, revealed investigations in several other countries, including South Korea, Iran and the United Kingdom.
Where did Wagner work?
The Wagner Group was first spotted in eastern Ukraine shortly after separatist conflict broke out there in April 2014, weeks after Russia annexed Crimea.
While Russia has supported the separatist rebellion in Donbass, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, Russia has denied sending its weapons and troops there despite ample evidence to the contrary. Engaging private contractors in the fighting allowed Moscow to maintain a degree of deniability.
Prigozhin’s company was named Wagner after the surname of its first commander, Dmitry Utkin, a retired lieutenant colonel of the Russian Army Special Forces.
It quickly gained a reputation for its extreme brutality and brutality.
Besides Ukraine, Wagner personnel have been deployed to Syria, where Russia has supported the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war. In Libya, they fought alongside the forces of Libyan leader Khalifa Haftar.
The group also operates in the Central African Republic and Mali.
Prigozhin reportedly used Wagner’s reach in Syria and African countries to secure lucrative mining contracts.
US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the company is using its access to gold and other resources in Africa to fund its operations in Ukraine.
Some Russian media have alleged Wagner’s involvement in the July 2018 killings of three Russian journalists, who were shot dead in the Central African Republic while investigating the group’s activities there. The killings remain unsolved.
What is the reputation of the group?
Western countries and UN experts have accused Wagner Group mercenaries of numerous human rights abuses across Africa, including in the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali.
In December 2021, the European Union accused the group of “gross human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings”, and of carrying out “destabilizing activities” in the Central African Republic, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
Some of the reported incidents stood out for their horrific brutality.
A video posted online in 2017 showed a group of armed men, said to be under contract with Wagner, torturing a Syrian man, beating him to death with a sledgehammer, cutting off his head before mutilating, and then burning his body. The Russian authorities ignored demands from the media and human rights activists to investigate the murder.
What is the role of WAGNER in Ukraine?
The Wagner Group played an increasingly visible role in the war in Ukraine as regular Russian forces suffered severe attrition and lost control of some previously captured territory in a series of humiliating setbacks.
This month Prigozhin claimed full credit for the capture of the salt-mining town of Soledar in the Donetsk region and accused Russia’s Defense Ministry of trying to steal Wagner’s glory. He said Wagner was leading the assault on the city of Bakhmut, a nearby Ukrainian stronghold that Russian forces had been trying to capture for months.
Prigozhin toured Russian prisons to recruit fighters, promising amnesty to his colleagues if they survived a half-year tour in the front line with Wagner. He published a video clip congratulating the first group of convicts who received an official pardon and their right to leave the company.
The United States estimates that Wagner has about 50,000 personnel fighting in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts recruited by the company.
The United States estimates that Wagner spends about $100 million a month in combat and has received weapons from North Korea, including missiles and rockets.