Neo-Nazi 'Wagner Group' Of Russian Mercenaries Claim To Be Fighting In Ukraine

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February 25, 2022

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The Wagner Group is a Private Military Company (PMC) linked to Russian businessman Yvgeney Prigozhin and commanded by former Main Intelligence Unit (GRU) special forces officer Dmitry Utkin. Mercenaries from the Wagner Group have fought in the civil wars in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The group is linked to the GRU and is reliant on Russian military infrastructure, including transportation and documentation.[1]

Wagner mercenaries have been reported in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Madagascar, Mozambique, and the Central African Republic.[2] The group has been accused of committing war crimes in Libya,[3] Syria,[4] and the Central African Republic.[5]

The Wagner Group seems to have deployed in Ukraine, based on social media posts of accounts with links to the groups and past activity of the group in Eastern Ukraine. The PMC is equipped with standard Russian military equipment and has used runes and other symbols popular among neo-Nazi groups.

On February 23, 2022, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Defense Admiral (ret.) John Kirby was asked about the involvement of the Wagner Group in the Ukraine crisis, to which he responded saying he had not seen any indications of their involvement, but admitted that this "might be a level of information that we don't have."[6] Meanwhile a Wagner-affiliated Twitter account and Telegram channel seemed to suggest that the group was moving in on Ukraine and preparing to be involved in an invasion force.

The following report details the activity of a number of Wagner Group-affiliated social media channels immediately preceding and during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Wagner Group Twitter And Telegram Channels Appear To Announce Invasion

A Twitter account which appears to be affiliated with the Wagner Group posted a series of tweets on February 23, 2022, suggesting that they were preparing to engage in armed conflict in Ukraine.

The group first posted an image of a Russian surface-to-air missile system inscribed with Nordic Runes and a "Z" symbol. The "Z" symbol has been widely used by Russian forces to denote reservist or irregular units, such as the Wagner Group. The tweet noted that the runes were the Teivas and Odal runes, and that they "symbolize the connection with the God of War and victory" and "connection with one's family and roots" respectively. Both runes are used extensively by neo-Nazis.

A white supremacist Telegram channel shared a screenshot from Twitter that read: "Are you ready?"

  1. image posted by the group's Telegram channel depicts burning military vehicles. The caption notes that the image was taken after a clash with Ukrainian forces in Sumy.

The group's Telegram channel posted on February 24 several items regarding an allegedly shot down an Su-25 of the Russian Air Force.

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[1] Csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/band-brothers-wagner-group-and-russian-state, September 21, 2020.

[2] Foreignpolicy.com/2021/07/06/what-is-wagner-group-russia-mercenaries-military-contractor/, July 6, 2021.

[3] Reuters.com/world/africa/libyas-warring-sides-including-russian-mercenaries-may-be-guilty-crimes-un-2021-10-04/, October 4, 2021.

[4] CNN.com/videos/world/2021/07/20/wagner-russian-mercenaries-alleged-human-rights-abuses-syria-karadsheh-pkg-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn, July 20, 2021.

[5] Nytimes.com/2021/06/27/world/asia/russia-mercenaries-central-african-republic.html, June 27, 2021.

[6] Youtube.com/watch?v=CGJFRcYhFXk, February 23, 2022. (Time stamp: 28:50).

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