According to an investigation by the Bell newspaper, Evgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known as “Putin's chef”, created the private military company (PMC), the Wagner Group following the orders of Russia's high-ranking military leaders.
The very idea of creating a PMC was born at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in 2010. Eeben Barlow, the founder of Executive Outcomes, the world's first legal private military company, was also present at the forum. Barlow told the military about the PMC creation model and even offered options for adapting such a company to Russian conditions.
By that time, the creation of a “retirees” detachment in Russia had been discussed for about a year. The plan was supported by the Russian Army General, Nikolai Makarov, Head of the General Staff of the Russian Federation.
Vladimir Putin’s castling move with Dmitry Medvedev, the scandal around the resignation of Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, and the retirement of Nikolai Makarov, the head of the General Staff, put off the implementation of the PMC idea for a few years.
The recruitment of the PMC team started in 2013. The work was carried out by Prigozhin, a businessman from St. Petersburg, who had been receiving contracts from Russian military for cleaning, heating, the construction of military camps, waste disposal, and food supply in the Russian Army.
Nevertheless, Prigozhin not only denies his involvement, but also the very existence of the PMC. “The fact of linking my name to the PMC is a consequence of information originally presented to public through the Security Service of Ukraine,” he said.
In February-March 2014, Wagner mercenaries were spotted in the Crimea and later in the Ukrainian Donbas. However, they did not play a leading role yet.
For the purpose of “teambuilding”, they chose a site near the GRU (Main Directorate of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces) base in southern Russia around mid-2015. In August 2015, the PMC Wagner gathered mercenaries and began preparing them for their first foreign trip, a trip to Syria.
The capture of Palmyra in 2016 became the peak of the operation, in which Wagner fighters played a decisive role. However, the victories were soon greatly overshadowed. In February 2018, the private army suffered significant losses in a battle against Americans in Deir ez-Zor. Prigozhin caused the wrath of the military command. The attack was allegedly not sanctioned by the command of the Russian group.
After the battle in Deir ez-Zor, there has been no information about the participation of the PMC in military hostilities. Nevertheless, PMC mercenaries have been seen in a dozen of other countries, mainly on the African continent.
According to the sources of the Bell, a total of 7,000 to 10,000 mercenaries could have passed through PMC since 2014.