Wagner group

Would Richard Wagner have approved of the Wagner Group?

Wagnerian exile Would Richard Wagner have approved of the Wagner Group? While he is believed to have harboured anti-Semitic views and his music later became an inspiration for Adolf Hitler, the young Wagner was a left-wing activist. In 1849, in spite of serving with the Saxon court in Dresden, he joined an uprising against Prussian rule. He is believed to have been involved in making and distributing grenades and to have acted as a lookout. Several of his associates were killed or arrested and sentenced to death after the uprising failed, but Wagner fled to Switzerland. His exile had a happier outcome than that of Yevgeny Prigozhin, and he was

Will mounting casualties change the debate in Ukraine?

At a small army field clinic outside Bakhmut, I watched as the body of a dead soldier was carried in. Two more soldiers followed, this time seriously injured – and this was what troops described as a ‘quiet day’. Ukraine doesn’t talk about its military deaths much and refuses to reveal any figures. There’s little in the way of victim culture here; the emphasis is on how brave its troops are, not how many have perished. Most people know someone who’s died in action, but treat the collective trauma as something to worry about when the war is over. In the meantime, there’s vodka. While Russia has used the conflict

Why Putin still needs Wagner

It will be a matter of deep regret for Vladimir Putin that, in the wake of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s ill-fated attempt to overthrow Russia’s military establishment, he has finally been forced to come clean about the Kremlin’s association with the Wagner Group. Deniability is a vital facet for a veteran spook like Putin. Even when Wagner’s band of mercenary cut-throats were spearheading the assault on the east Ukrainian city of Bakhmut earlier this year, the Russian leader rebutted claims of Prigozhin’s involvement. ‘He runs a restaurant business, it is his job – he is a restaurant keeper in St Petersburg,’ Putin told Austrian television. Putin’s challenge is to maintain Wagner’s global operations

Beijing and Prigozhin: what does China think of the Wagner uprising?

36 min listen

It’s now a week since the Wagner Group revolted against the Kremlin. Though the dramatic uprising was quelled within 24 hours and the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is now exiled to Belarus, the episode will have lasting impact on President Putin’s authority. Among those closely watching the events unfold would have been the Chinese leadership, who sent out a statement of support for Putin, but only after it was clear that the revolt had been put down. What will those in Zhongnanhai make of the Prigozhin uprising? And could something similar happen in China? On the episode, I’m joined by James Palmer, a deputy editor at Foreign Policy and long

The Wagner Group isn’t Russia’s only private army

Allowing a psychopath to form a private army of violent criminals may not, on reflection, have been Vladimir Putin’s greatest idea. But Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutinous Wagner Group is by no means the only private army operating in Russia. Over the past couple of months no fewer than five armies have been fighting on Russian soil. Only one of them, the official Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, is directly subordinate to the Kremlin. Pay can run to £2,400 a month, an attractive offer when the average wage in the provinces is under £600 The 12,000-strong semi-irregular forces of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, officially known as the 141st Special Motorised Regiment

The terrifying neo-Nazi mercenaries being deployed in Ukraine

Given how the Kremlin is so determined to portray Ukraine as a hotbed of Nazis, it is tragically ironic not only that its own forces seem determined to recreate some of the horrors of the German invasion in the second world war, but also that it is so willing to use its own fascists in pursuit of its war. The latest unit to hit the news is Rusich, a unit affiliated to the infamous mercenaries of Wagner Group. Its name simply means a member of the old Rus’ people, and speaks to its inchoate ideology, a mix of traditional Slavic (and Viking) paganism, Nazism, and extreme Russian nationalism. Originally drawn