The Wagner Group is a group of fighters supported by Russia. The group, however, is not officially part of Russia’s military.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy research group in Washington, says the Wagner Group operates in about 30 countries.
Until recently, the group’s leader was one of its founders, Russian Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin and his fighters in Russia were helping the Russian army fight in Ukraine.
But late last week, the group appeared to turn against Russia.
The Wagner Group attempted what is being called a mutiny against the Russian army and began moving forces towards Moscow.
The move concerned Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin. However, within one day, Putin and Prigozhin announced a deal that permitted Prigozhin to leave peacefully for Belarus.
With Prigozhin in another country, experts wanted to know if he or the Russian army would now control the Wagner Group.
Reports by the Wall Street Journal newspaper said Russian leaders recently traveled to the countries where the Wagner Group’s fighters work. They said the Russian government was in control of the Wagner Group’s fighters.
The group’s fighters are currently known to be active in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic (the CAF).
The Associated Press (AP) reported that the Wagner Group works for political leaders in the African nations. Its fighters push back against groups that do not support those in power. The AP described the Wagner Group fighters as “brutal” and “ruthless.”
The group does this work in return for payment. Through its activities, the group gains the use of ports and natural resources in countries where it operates. Using these ports and resources, Russia can trade illegally in weapons and use the money for its war against Ukraine.
In Syria, the group provides protection for leader Bashar al-Assad. The Wall Street Journal wrote that Russian diplomats recently went in person to speak with Al-Assad. They also went to Mali and spoke by telephone with leaders in the CAF.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to Russia’s state-run television network. He said that hundreds of Wagner Group fighters would stay in the CAF to support President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
Jordy Christopher is a special adviser to Touadera. He said there was never a concern about who controlled the Wagner Fighters in the CAF.
He called Prigozhin “a pawn” and “only the tip of the iceberg,” meaning there were always more important people in control of the Wagner fighters. However, the short mutiny may still concern some African leaders.
Ryan Cummings is director of Signal Risk, a security advising company that covers Africa. He noted that the news about Prigozhin’s actions and the sense that the Russian government might be vulnerable should be concerning to African leaders.
“Developments in Russia will likely (make) African countries more cautious in their engagement with Russia,” Cummings said.
He said the mutiny shows the African leaders who depend on Wagner fighters that a change in Russian leadership “could be exploited” by their opponents. Groups who do not like the African leaders might see problems in Russia as a chance to push for power.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a story by The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
mutiny –n. a military or armed fight against a state or army leader
brutal – adj. harsh
ruthless –adj. evil, mean or unstopping
pawn –n. the least powerful piece on a chessboard
tip of the iceberg –expression used to mean there is more to a story than one can easily see
vulnerable –adj. open to injury
cautious –adj. careful
engagement –n. work between two people or entities, a plan between two groups
We want to hear from you. Do you think the news about Russia and the Wagner Group will change the leadership in some of the countries mentioned in the story?
Here is how our comment system works:
- Write your comment in the box.
- Under the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
- Click on one image and a box appears. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you may create one on the Disqus system. It is the blue circle with “D” on it. It is free.
Each time you return to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Our comment policy is here.