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I’ve found the infamous Wagner mercenary battalion, Russian oligarch confirms ‘Putin’s chief’ for the first time
- Yevgeny Prigozhin has confirmed that he founded the Wagner Group in 2014
- It’s the first time an oligarch dubbed Putin’s chief has admitted to leading the group
- Prigozhin said he was ‘proud’ to have brought together ‘a group of patriots’
- Wagner accused of atrocities in Ukraine, Middle East, Africa and South America
A Russian oligarch dubbed “Putin’s chief” has confirmed for the first time that he founded the infamous Wagner Group.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose other company provides catering services to the Kremlin, said he set up the mercenary during the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
The group has since built a reputation for doing the dirty work of the Russian military, leaving behind a trail of brutal violence, rapes and war crimes.
It is known to have operated on battlefields from Europe to the Middle East, South America and Africa.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch dubbed ‘Putin’s chief’ (left, recruits prisoners to fight in Ukraine) has admitted to founding the infamous Wagner mercenary group
Prigozhin (left), whose other company caters to the Kremlin, said he was “proud” to bring together “a group of patriots” to help Ukraine, the first was in 2014
“I cleaned up the old weapons myself, picked out the bulletproof vests myself and found specialists who could help me with this,” Prigozhin said in a statement from his catering company Concord on Russia’s social media site VKontakte.
“From that moment, on May 1, 2014, a group of patriots was born, later called the Wagner Battalion. I am proud to have been able to defend their right to protect the interests of their country.’
Prigozhin has long disproved any association with Wagner and has threatened to sue journalists who reported on his involvement with the group.
Years after its founding, the Russian government even refused to recognize the group’s existence.
However, after its members were often spotted on the front lines in Ukraine, the name was mentioned in state media reports.
Wagner’s first deployment was in 2014 to the front lines in eastern Ukraine, where they helped Russian-backed separatist groups fight against the country’s new government after a 2013 revolution that toppled the Kremlin-friendly president.
Since then, they have gone to Libya – fighting for warlord Khalifa Haftar against the Western-backed government of national accord – and Syria, along with the forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Wagner is known to have been active in Ukraine (pictured), Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic and Mali, and has been charged with war crimes in each of those locations
Russia is said to have lost tens of thousands of soldiers fighting in Ukraine, with Wagner also suffering heavy casualties (photo, Russian tanks destroyed)
They were also deployed to the Central African Republic, where they were charged with raping, robbery and torture of unarmed civilians, and are currently being deployed to Mali, where they are accused of butchering civilians.
Wagner largely recruits from the regular Russian military and often takes on those thrown from its ranks.
However, after Prigozhin suffered many casualties during fighting in Ukraine, he has started recruiting from prisons in Russia.
Recent footage shows Prigozhin telling men trained at a training ground that if they fight for him in Ukraine for six months, their sentence will be released.
According to local media, murderers, sex offenders and burglars he addresses include among others.
“This is a hard war, not even near people like… [Chechnya] and the others,” he said on video.
‘My ammunition consumption is two and a half times higher than in the battle of Stalingrad,’ – where nearly two million were killed.