Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

The Hill News

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

The Hill News

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

The Hill News

Wagner Group leader’s death paves the way for Ukrainian counteroffensive advancement


The Russo-Ukranian War initially made the headlines on February 24, 2022, following the invasion of Ukraine. Since then, there have been several turning points in the war, most recently the death of the Wagner Group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. 

The Wagner Group was once Russia’s largest and most capable state-funded private military company, or PMC. Private military companies are “low-profile deniable forces…that can do everything from providing foreign leaders with security to training, advising, and assisting partner security forces,” according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Comprised of tens of thousands of soldiers, most Wagner mercenaries were recruits from Russian military and security forces, but lately, more soldiers were taken from Russian jails. Fighters for the Wagner Group were trained at one of two camps at the 10th Special Mission Brigade of GRU Spetsnaz in Mol’kino, Krasnodar region, Russia.  

Officially known as PMC Wagner, Wagner, formally led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, served on three different continents, Europe, Africa, and South America, more specifically Latin America. Most notably, mercenaries of Wagner were deployed to work alongside the Russian military in the Russo-Ukranian War up until its rebellion in June of 2023.  

Exactly two months after the Wagner Group mutiny, a private plane, with Prigozhin onboard, crashed outside of Moscow on August 23. “There is little doubt that the plane crash that killed Prigozhin and other top people in the Wagner command, was a high-profile execution of the man whom Putin perceived as a traitor,” the Foreign Policy Research Institute explained. Coincidentally, on that same day, General Sergei Surovikin, an ally of Prigozhin’s, was discharged from the Russian army as commander of the air force.  

Both Prigozhin and Surovikin have played a major role in Russia’s progress with the war this year. The Wagner Group led the capture of Bakhmut which was Russia’s only battleground win thus far, while Surovikin began building Russia’s defensive fortifications that are an important part of the Russian army’s military strategy today.  

Even with both traitors eliminated, according to The Royal Institute of International Affair’s Orysia Lutsevych as reported by The Guardian, “Putin will have to keep watching his back for traitors within the military, and that distracts from the war.” 

Ukraine has taken advantage of this infighting within the Kremlin. On September 2, 2023, the Ukranian army made a major advancement in their counteroffensive, breaking through Russia’s strongest and most resourced defensive line. “Ukrainian forces have decisively breached Russia’s first defense line near Zaporizhizhia after weeks of painstaking mine clearance, and expect faster gains as they press the weaker second line,” stated The Guardian.  

Now that Russia’s first defensive line has been broken, Russia no longer has the advantage they once had. “The closer to victory, the harder it is. Why? Because unfortunately, we are losing the strongest and best. So now we have to concentrate on certain areas and finish the job. No matter how hard it is for all of us,” Brig Gen Oleksandr Tarnavskiy of Ukraine mentioned in an interview with The Observer. Nonetheless, hope for Ukranian citizens has been restored. 

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About the Contributor
Michelle Lawrence '26
Michelle Lawrence '26, Campus News Editor

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