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What the hell is Russia’s Wagner Group?

43 minutes
What the hell is Russia’s Wagner Group?

Amid an escalating public conflict between Russia’s Defense Ministry and Evgeny Prigozhin, The Naked Pravda builds on last year’s episode about the warlord-tycoon, looking more closely at the paramilitary cartel he fronts. To understand how Wagner Group should be defined, why its brutality is so valuable to Moscow, and how its recruitment of prisoners has played out, Meduza spoke to three experts.

Timestamps for this episode:

  • (3:55) Candace Rondeaux (a professor of practice and fellow at the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies and the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University, and the director of Future Frontlines at New America) explains how Wagner Group is best defined.
  • (5:50) Andreas Heinemann-Grüder (who teaches Political Science at the University of Bonn in Germany and is a senior researcher at the Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies) break down how Russia’s mercenaries practice “exterminatory warfare.”
  • (7:38) Bellingcat training-and-research director Aric Toler talks about Wagner Group’s promises of pardons and burials with honors.
  • (10:07) Andreas Heinemann-Grüder says Wagner’s recruitment of prisoners undermined the group’s internal cohesion and “didn’t work out” in the end.
  • (14:21) Why does Moscow need Wagner Group at all in the middle of an invasion openly waged by Russia’s official military?
  • (17:41) Candace Rondeaux explains the difference between designations for organized crime and terrorism, from a foreign policy perspective.
  • (22:27) Wagner Group as a front for Russian state corporations’ interests abroad.
  • (24:21) Aric Toler examines what funerals for three 1990s-era crime bosses recruited by Wagner say about the group’s dubious promises to inmates.
  • (28:14) Candace Rondeaux highlights the ways in which Wagner Group is a social movement too.
  • (31:50) How to read Prigozhin-linked channels online and Russia’s Z-blogosphere more broadly.
  • (37:10) Why ending the war demands a resolution to Wagner Group’s fate.

The Naked Pravda looks at Wagner Group’s front man

New episodes of The Naked Pravda are released at the end of every week. Catch each show by subscribing through Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or one of these other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the podcast, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: “The Naked Pravda.”

Production, sound editing, and mixing by Kevin Rothrock

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