The militia is believed to have been created by Dmitri Utkin – a former special forces officer and a lieutenant colonel with Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. Its fighters have been deployed around the world and have seen active service in Syria and Africa. Wagner mercenaries are currently fighting in Ukraine alongside regular units of the Russian army.
However, it would appear that tensions between the privately contracted fighters and regular Russians troops are reaching boiling point.
Reports suggest that a bitter dispute broke out between a Russian Spetsnaz unit and Wagner fighters over the division of war loot, which ended in a “bloody firefight”.
The GRU dispatched a senior officer to the scene in a bid to calm the situation down.
WarMonitor, a OSINT investigator, said: “Russian Spetsnaz have been reported to have got into a bloody firefight with a Wagner elite unit.
“GRU high ranking officials were called in to calm tensions.
“The incident reportedly took place on the eastern frontline Donbas region. Again over spoils of war.”
Social media user @vdv_textbooks, an expert on Russian airborne troops and special forces, also noted: “Trusted Russian Spetsnaz (SpN) source confessed that situation among SpN units and between Private Military Companies (PMC) has deteriorated so bad that GRU high-ranking officer from central apparatus has arrived to Ukraine to calm situation.
“There was armed conflict where one brigade (BGD) sided with PMC against another BGD.”
They added that special forces soldiers from the 22nd Spetsnaz brigade were sent to suppress a riot involving both Wagner soldiers and troops from the 10th Spetsnaz brigade.
Wagner first became involved in Ukraine in 2014 and fought alongside pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas region
Tracey German, a professor of conflict and security at King’s College London, told the BBC that in 2014 “around 1,000 of its mercenaries supported the pro-Russian militias fighting for control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.”
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“These are forward detachments operating in the first line of offensive troops.”
The mercenaries have a reputation for brutality and have been accused of committing war crimes in areas where they have ben deployed.
Ukrainian prosecutors allege three Wagner fighters committed war crimes in the village of Motyzhyn near Kyiv in April.
Moreover, German intelligence suspects Wagner mercenaries may also have been involved in the killing of civilians in Bucha.