Putin's admission of backing Wagner confirms years of Kremlin abuses worldwide

By Salaam Times and AFP

Members of the Wagner Group late on June 24 ride a military vehicle painted with the word 'Brother' in Rostov-on-Don, the site of a revolt orchestrated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who sent his mercenaries to topple the military leaders in Moscow. [Roman Romokhov/AFP

Members of the Wagner Group late on June 24 ride a military vehicle painted with the word 'Brother' in Rostov-on-Don, the site of a revolt orchestrated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who sent his mercenaries to topple the military leaders in Moscow. [Roman Romokhov/AFP

MOSCOW -- In a stunning but not surprising reversal, Russian President Vladimir Putin last week admitted that the Wagner mercenary group was "fully funded" by the Kremlin.

For years, the Wagner Group has operated as "one of Moscow's worst kept secrets".

The group has two primary goals: "to provide the Kremlin with plausible deniability when deploying fighters in war zones" and to offer "a ready-made capability for building influence with receptive states", the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank said in 2019.

By revealing the huge scale of official spending on Wagner's services, Putin has confirmed that it has effectively been acting as an arm of the state.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with servicemen at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 27. [Mikhail Tereshchenko/Sputnik/AFP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with servicemen at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 27. [Mikhail Tereshchenko/Sputnik/AFP]

Yevgeny Prigozhin on June 24 as he occupied the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. [Concord]

Yevgeny Prigozhin on June 24 as he occupied the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. [Concord]

Wagner mercenaries first deployed to Ukraine in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. In subsequent years, they have been involved in conflicts around the world, including in Syria, Mozambique, Sudan, Venezuela, Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Mali.

In Africa and the Middle East, Wagner mercenaries are charged with protecting gold and diamond mines, oil fields and other lucrative resources.

In many cases Wagnerites have usurped or undermined local security forces, and the mercenaries are accused of human rights abuses and war crimes wherever they are deployed.

Since its start, the evidence has pointed to Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin as the money and the power behind the Wagner Group.

Connecting the dots between Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin was easy -- both men are from St. Petersburg and have long-established business and personal ties.

But both had denied involvement in the Wagner Group, as private armies are illegal in Russia.

Tensions simmer over

That changed last September, when Prigozhin finally admitted to leading the group as part of Russia's full scale invasion of Ukraine.

Once a shadowy figure who seemed to prefer to remain out of the limelight, Prigozhin in recent months became increasingly visible and critical of Moscow's approach, blaming Russian generals for thousands of Russian losses.

The feud came to a breaking point at the weekend when Prigozhin led a short-lived mutiny that analysts say will have lasting repercussions.

On Saturday, Wagner launched a revolt -- ostensibly to resist efforts to fold it into the Defence Ministry structure -- seized the headquarters of the Southern Military District and marched on Moscow.

Putin has condemned this as a betrayal, and ordered Wagner to surrender its heavy weaponry to the Defence Ministry, while its fighters either join the regular army or accept exile in Belarus.

Putin has not mentioned Prigozhin by name since the revolt, referring to rebelling forces only as "the mutineers".

"You de facto stopped civil war," Putin told troops from the Defence Ministry, National Guard, Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry gathered in a Kremlin courtyard to hold a minute's silence for airmen slain by Wagner.

Counts vary, but some sources say the mercenaries shot down six Russian helicopters and a warplane.

Putin insisted that Wagner's mercenaries had seen that "the army and the people were not with them".

But Prigozhin has boasted -- with some support from news footage -- that his men were cheered by civilians during his short-lived revolt.

Kremlin 'fully financed' Wagner

Prigozhin's attempted "coup", as some are calling it, forced Putin to lay his cards on the table regarding Wagner.

"The state paid to the Wagner Group 86.262 billion RUB [around $1 billion] for salaries for fighters and incentive rewards between May 2022 and May 2023 alone," Putin said Tuesday.

He was speaking to defence officials in televised remarks at the start of a meeting.

"I want to note, and I want everyone to know that the financing of the entire Wagner Group was fully ensured by the state," he said, according to TASS. "We fully financed this group from the Defence Ministry, from the state budget."

That Wagner's leaders now are portrayed as traitors represents a turnaround for Russian state messaging. Previously the group enjoyed heroic status as part of the Ukraine offensive.

Even while criticising Wagner in the wake of Saturday's revolt, Putin was clear not to attack its rank-and-file members, whom he has praised before for "courage and heroism" in Ukraine.

Some observers believe Putin's admission was meant to send a message to the rank-and-file members of Wagner to ensure they know where their salaries come from.

Belarus welcomed Prigozhin into exile on Tuesday, with Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka seeking credit for stepping in to mediate Wagner's turnaround on the road to Moscow.

Talking to his own military officials, Lukashenka said he had urged Putin not to kill Prigozhin. He also criticised Russia's handling of the issue.

In the Hague, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was still too early to draw conclusions from the move to Belarus of Prigozhin and, likely, some of his forces, but he vowed that the alliance was ready to defend its members.

"What is absolutely clear is that we have sent a clear message to Moscow and to Minsk that NATO is there to protect every ally and every inch of NATO territory," Stoltenberg said.

More sanctions

Also on Tuesday, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions aimed at disrupting gold mining activities that fund the Wagner Group in Africa, vowing to hold the mercenaries accountable for abuses.

The measures against the Wagner Group had been previously planned but were briefly put on hold as US officials sought to avoid appearing to favour either Prigozhin or Putin.

"The Wagner Group funds its brutal operations in part by exploiting natural resources in countries like the Central African Republic and Mali," US Treasury Department sanctions official Brian Nelson said in a statement.

"The United States will continue to target the Wagner Group's revenue streams to degrade its expansion and violence in Africa, Ukraine and anywhere else."

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, previewing the sanctions earlier Tuesday, renewed his criticism of the Wagner mercenaries.

"We believe that everywhere that Wagner goes, they bring death and destruction in their wake," he told reporters. "They hurt local populations; they extract minerals and extract money from the communities where they operate."

"And so we would continue to urge governments in Africa and elsewhere to cease any co-operation with Wagner," he said.

Lukashenka's decision to welcome Prigozhin marks "another example of him choosing the interests of Vladimir Putin and choosing the interests of the Kremlin over the interests of the Belarusian people", Miller added.

The 68-year-old dictator of Belarus is also subject to Western sanctions for cracking down on opposition figures and allowing Russia to attack Ukraine last year from Belarusian territory.

In January, the US government designated the Wagner Group as a "transnational criminal organisation", allowing for the wider application of sanctions on the group's sprawling global network.

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Although Putin is a dictator and oppressor, especially when it comes to the attack against Ukraine, but recently when Sweden ordered the burning of the holy book (the Holy Quran), Putin was one of the most important leaders in the world who denounced this act of Sweden. Pope George Birguglio was among the other leaders of the Western world who condemned this abominable act of Sweden. We express our gratitude to both the non-Muslim leaders of the world for comforting Muslims in this painful situation. Through Salam Times, I ask Russian President Putin to withdraw his forces from Ukraine as soon as possible and allow the people of Ukraine to determine their own destiny. It is up to the Ukrainian people whether they join the West or Russia.


Just as Wagner is now called a mercenary group and planned to attack his master (Putin) again, the Taliban will one day plan to attack their master (America) and become enemies of their interests. It is true that currently, the Taliban are in favor of the United States and protecting their interests. Still, if we pay a little attention to the religious area, there is a saying in the origin of every Afghan that "We do not make friends with infidels." Today, when the United States and the Taliban are committed to each other's interests in an agreement, the United States sends $40 million sacks to the Taliban every week. One day it will be like Wagner's army, launching attacks at its master from behind. It will be very difficult for America. Now, America has made the life of Afghans difficult for their interests and deprived them of any human life, but this benefit will be temporary. And if the Taliban once started to disobey the orders of the United States, then it would be tough to control them. Wagner surrendered within 24 hours, but the Taliban was not about to surrender...


I disagree with your opinion. The Americans, who agreed with the Taliban, first protected themselves (America) and then protected their friends up to Pakistan. The only danger is to Afghanistan and Afghans. The blood of an Afghan is less valuable than the blood of a chicken. Afghan freedom, civil rights, human values, national values... everything was violated. Another thing is the attack by the Taliban on America. If America wants, it can destroy the entire Taliban [government] system within 48 hours; however, all these works are done based on understanding and protecting each other's interests.


The world, especially the superpowers, has been playing a surprising game. Amazing competitions are going on today between the superpower countries. They make and implement different plans to rule the world. They no longer send their soldiers to conquer countries but build militias to subdue countries and fight them. It is an accepted fact that nowadays, the military forces are spending a lot of money on sending and financing their troops to occupy the countries, so the best and alternative way for the military forces is to have militias in the target countries. Maybe one of the reasons is that the army has been spent on high, and the soldiers are insured. This is very expensive for the government, which in case of the death of a soldier, will take care of his family members and spend on his children. To better confirm this, the group named (Wagner) in several countries, Syria, Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Russia, has shown who makes the militias and who they are!? Pakistanis used to make Afghans fight against India in Kashmir. In Syria, Iranians made Afghan Hazaras fight for very little money to protect Iran's interests... Hezbollah, Chechen fighters, Jaish Muhammad, Harakat al-Ansar, Tajik fighters, Uzbek fighters, Uighur fighters, Arab fighters, ISIS... If you think about it, these superpower countries have made the world unstable. These warring groups are formed in a way that they are mentally trained against these superpower countries, but in reality, these