Wagner: Inside Putin’s Private Army

What now for the Wagner Group and leader Yevgeny Prigozhin? For  the past 14 months, Russia’s rare military successes were not achieved by the regular army, but by the militiamen of the Wagner commando.  They accounted for a quarter of all Russian combatants on the frontline and took part in the toughest fighting.

To understand this essential link in the Russian military system, we obtained the testimony of three mercenaries who fought in Wagner’s ranks. They give an insider’s account of how the intelligence services trained and equipped the first fighters. They also provide valuable information about the feared founder of the militia, Dimitri Outkine, an admirer of the Third Reich and Nazi ideology.

The testimony of these three fighters sheds light on the troubled personality of Wagner’s current boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin. A former criminal and a wealthy oligarch, this close associate of Vladimir Putin has no qualms about appearing in fatigues near the front line, but also in Russian prisons to recruit new fighters in exchange for having their sentences overturned. He uses macabre humour and the most odious provocation, and is now overshadowing the Russian Defence Minister, whom he openly criticises.

We also investigated in Africa, which has become the terrain of conquest for Wagner’s mercenaries. In Sudan, Mali, Mozambique and the Central African Republic, they are everywhere, putting their weapons at the service of authoritarian regimes to crush any opposition or rebellion. In exchange, they seize the natural wealth of these countries.

Wherever they go, Wagner commando sows death and desolation. Some of the victims tell of massacres, torture and rape. But Wagner is not just a military force. His men have become specialists in disinformation, not hesitating to stage fake mass graves or produce big-budget action films and propaganda cartoons. The aim: to convince local populations that Russia is their best ally.

From the Ukrainian front to the mines of the Central African Republic, we lift the veil on Putin’s private army.


  • Year: 2023
  • Duration: 58 mins
  • Production: Ligne de Front
  • Director: Raphaël Pellegrino
  • Available Versions: ENG, FRA
  • Country of production: France

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