Human rights groups have also noted Wagner and accused its members of committing war crimes wherever they are deployed. But for Putin’s purposes, the mercenaries were deniable and cost-effective.
The Wagner Group does not employ a public affairs officer to explain its duties. Its employees are prohibited from conducting interviews. As such, the Kremlin can always sound the typical shake that it has no knowledge of them being in a war zone. But most believe that there is no daylight between Wagner and the Kremlin. “The Wagner Group’s operations are designed to provide Moscow with plausible deniability, but the opposite is true,” says John Seaver, a 28-year-old veteran of the CIA’s National Secret Service. “They work closely with the GRU, the SVR, the FSB, and the KGB after The collapse of the Soviet Union. They are the indisputable organs of the Russian state. Their denial is purely implausible.”
Wagner puts a boot on the ground where natural resources and pro-Putin regimes with poor security postures need additional tactical strength. Wagner units fought government forces in Libya. And spread in the Central African Republic, Sudan and Madagascar. Wagner was discovered in the Americas, in oil-rich Venezuela, supporting the drug regime of President Nicolas Maduro. Wherever they are sent, civilians are tortured, raped and killed. Moscow denies, but in the age of smartphones it is impossible to hide solid evidence of the involvement of Russian citizens in horrific atrocities.
It was also the only conventional battle that took place between Wagner’s agents and the US Army. On February 7, 2018, about 600 Wagner fighters, supported by tanks and artillery, attacked an SDF position near Deir ez-Zor in the eastern extension of the desert near the Iraqi border. The SDF battalion, mostly Kurdish fighters, was reinforced by elements of the US Joint Special Operations Command, including agents from Delta. AC-130 gunships launched airborne fire support from thousands of feet over the desert to aid the Americans and the Kurds. What was not obliterated by air was left to the delta operators to sort it out on the ground. Reportedly over 300 Wagner Group fighters were killed in a lopsided battle. US Defense Secretary James Mattis was telling Congress, “I have ordered their extermination.”