Nicknamed “the Musicians”, the private military company fights against the forces of kyiv
RT’s Murad Gazdiev had the rare opportunity to join the Wagner Group, a secret Russian private military company, as they fight in Donbass.
The entrepreneurs, who call themselves “Wagner’s Orchestra” or “The Musicians”, hide their identity. The title is believed to be the call sign of the unit’s founder, Dmitry Utkin, a veteran of two Chechen wars. Richard Wagner was a famous German composer of the 19th century, but the name has also been used for characters in literature, computer games and comics and even by a motorcycle manufacturer.
Before Murad joined them, the unit had recently pushed back Ukrainian troops from the village of Klinovoe in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Wagner’s fighters fired mortars as the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian Aidar Battalion and the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade attempted to hold them off. “The artillery and mortar duels here are deafening and endless”, Gazdiev said while reporting near a crew.
During their offensive, the Wagnerian troops came under fire from cluster munitions and had to deal with tripwire antipersonnel mines left by the Ukrainians. “What the sappers can remove safely, they do. What they can’t – or what they deem to be a trap – they blow [up]”, said Gazdiev.
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The fighting in the Donbass intensified after Russia launched a full-scale military campaign against Ukraine in late February.
Reports indicate that before Ukraine, the company operated in the Middle East and Africa. The Kremlin denied any connection between the Wagner group and the Russian government.
Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, citing kyiv’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, intended to give the Donetsk and Lugansk regions special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that kyiv’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to save time and “to create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbas republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked.
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