The Wagner Group, officially known as PMC Wagner, is a Russian paramilitary organization. It is seen as a private military company, a network of mercenaries and a de facto private army of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman formerly with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It operates in support of Russian interests, receives equipment from the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and has used MoD installations for training. While the Wagner Group itself is not ideologically driven, elements of it have been linked to neo-Nazism and far-right politics.
The Wagner Group first appeared in Ukraine in 2014, where it participated in the annexation of Crimea. The group was also active in 2014, fighting with Russia-backed separatists in the Luhansk region of Ukraine.
Dmitriy Valeryevich Utkin, a veteran of the First and Second Chechen Wars, reportedly founded the group. Until 2008 or 2013, Utkin served as lieutenant colonel and brigade commander of a unit of Spetsnaz GRU, the 700th Independent Spetsnaz Detachment of the 2nd Independent Brigade.