Founder of the Wagner Private Military Company
UTKIN, Dmitry Valeryevich (b. 1970) was the commander of the 700th Special Forces Unit of the 2nd Separate Special Forces Brigade of the Ministry of Defense. After being transferred to the reserve with the rank of lieutenant colonel, he worked for the Moran Security Group and participated in the so-called Syrian expedition of the Slavic Corps in 2013. That year, the Russian state security services even arrested him, but after the outbreak of aggression against Ukraine in 2014, the activities of Utkin and his squad were again in demand by the Kremlin.
Since the beginning of 2014, Utkin has been the commander of his a mercenary unit, named after his call sign Wagner PMC. Since the spring of 2014, Wagner operated in Crimea. In particular, the militants of this unit participated in the disarmament of the Ukrainian military who did not resist the Russian troops on the peninsula. In 2014-2015, the PMC structure also operated in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions occupied by Russian military and mercenaries. Thus, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) assured that the Wagner fighters were involved in the downing of the Ukrainian military transport aircraft Il-76 in Luhansk on July 14, 2014, resulting in the death of 49 people; the storming of the Luhansk airport and the city of Debaltseve, Donetsk region.
From October 2015 and at least to 2018, Wagner fought on the side of the Russian military and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The total number of the Wagner militants in Syria was estimated at 400 people. The group suffered heavy losses during that war. In particular, it lost many of its militants to mortar shelling of the Russian Armed Forces base in October 2015 and the battles for the city of Palmyra in 2016 and 2017. In the first six months, the group lost at least 32 people killed and 80 seriously wounded. During the new series of battles for Palmyra in 2017, at least 9 mercenaries were killed. The total losses of Russian mercenaries during U.S. Air Force air raids in the province of Deir ez-Zor in just one day on February 7, 2018, are estimated at 200 people.
In 2017-2019, the PMC fighters fought in Sudan on the side of the country's dictator Omar Bashir, overthrown in 2019. In March 2019, it became known that at least 300 Wagner mercenaries were present in Libya, where it supports Benghazi-based Libyan National Army General Khalifa Haftar. According to British intelligence, the PMC operates together with the units of the regular Russian Armed Forces.
Wagner fighters are also present in other African countries and got involved in a series of criminal incidents and international scandals. So, in January 2019, it turned out that they were involved in the murder of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic who investigated their activities in this country. A month later, American General Thomas Waldhauser told the US Congress that Russia still holds about 500 military personnel in the Central African Republic, with 175 of them belonging to the Wagner PMC. The main interest of armed Russians in the Central African Republic is exactly the same as in Libya: easy access to and control over local natural resources.
Many of the Wagner fighters received Russian orders and medals even though their activity is illegal by Russian law.
In November 2017, Dmitry Utkin became CEO of Concord Management and Consulting, the management company of the catering holding of the “father of the Kremlin Internet trolls” Evgeny Prigozhin, a close Putin’s associate. However, it doesn’t say that he retired as the formal or informal head of the mercenary group.
The United States imposed sanctions against Dmitry Utkin as head of the Wagner PMC in June 2017. However, the feeling of international impunity which favors the activities of the mercenaries led by Utkin helps the Russian regime to destabilize the situation in other countries of Africa and the Middle East. It cannot be ruled out that they may return to Ukraine or try to take part in the Kremlin provocations against the Baltic states.
1) Of being the commander of an illegal armed formation, conducting military activities outside the Russian Federation, which is a crime under Article 359 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, “Mercenary.”
2) Murders and war crimes in the territory of foreign states (Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, Libya, and the Central African Republic).
3) Organizing the murder of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic sent to this country by the Investigation Management Center of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
4) Commanding one of the units of GRU (the special forces of this highly classified department are carrying out subversive work or secret military activities against foreign states).
5) Putting pressure on witnesses to his criminal activities in the PMC, critics of his activities and threats of reprisals against them.