Alex Constantine - May 10, 2022
Members of the Wagner Group have been called into eastern Ukraine in an apparent bid to boost Russia's faltering forces after its troops were driven out of the Kyiv region
By Chris Hughes
The Mirror, 9 May, 2022
Hundreds of ruthless para-military enforcers known as Vladimir Putin’s private army have flooded into eastern Ukraine, it was revealed last night.
The notorious Wagner Group operatives - all battle-hardened ex paratroopers or special forces - have the worst reputation for war crimes globally. It is feared they were drafted in to massively boost Russia ’s faltering assault in the east of Ukraine, after its troops were driven out of the Kyiv region.
But as a private army they are also more able to commit war crimes as they operate outside the rule of engagement observed by western militaries.
Wagner Group - named after Hitler’s favourite German composer by its founder Dmitry Utkin - have fought in the region since 2014, alongside pro-Russian separatists.
They are known for being an arm’s length unit used by the Kremlin’s ministry of defence and its military intelligence units such as the GRU. Utkin cut his teeth as a senior officer leading battles in the first and second Chechen Wars, which developed a reputation for being ruthless, with many Russian units operating outside the rules of warfare.
Previously they have always kept their operations low-key, embedding with Assad’s forces in Syria and honing their skills as killers.
But the unit was spotted recently in Popasna, Luhansk, in the east of Ukraine, where Russian forces have relaunched their ground assaults.
Even though they have been with pro-Russian separatists in small numbers since 2014 this marks a huge stepping up of their operations in Ukraine. A source told the Daily Mirror: “The presence of the Wagner Group in large numbers in east Ukraine is a worrying development because they are so unaccountable.
“Even though they almost certainly have financial links to Putin and others in his Kremlin inner-circle they can be sent on plausible deniability operations.
“They are not regular troops but they will be executing the wishes and ambitions of Moscow as an extension of Russia’s military, albeit at arm’s length.
“The only possible reason they are there is to be used as a force that can do what it likes and with impunity and it won’t be seen as the responsibility of the Russian regime.”
Last month it was reported that a group linked to the Wagner Group, called Rusich, had been spotted on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Rusich was founded nearly a decade ago in St Petersburg by Red Army paratrooper Aleksei Milchakov, 30, and Yan Petrovsky, 33 - after the pair met at a white supremacist event.
It quickly gained notoriety in 2014 during fighting between Moscow-backed separatists and Ukrainian military. Milchakov has previously posted horrific pictures of himself slicing off the ears of dead soldiers on social media, reports The Times.
On his Vkontakte account he has also shared snaps of him carving the kolovrat, a Slavic far right swastika.
And has previously boasted about being a neo-Nazi and claims he "got high from the smell of burning human flesh".