Vladimir Putin revealed that the Kremlin spent over $1 billion on the Wagner Group over the past year.
The Moscow-funded mercenaries spent months capturing one almost totally destroyed city in Ukraine.
They then invaded Russia itself during a short-lived armed rebellion against its defense ministry.
Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed on Tuesday that the Kremlin has fully financed the Wagner mercenary organization to the tune of over $1 billion, begging the question: was the investment worth it?
During new remarks to Russia's military, Putin said his government, amid ongoing strains on its economy, spent 86 billion rubles (just over $1 billion) on Wagner between May 2022, just a few months into his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and May 2023. The notorious organization, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, spent most of this time fighting to capture eastern Ukraine's war-torn city of Bakhmut at a tremendous cost in human lives, as well as ammunition and equipment.
It managed to capture the city of limited strategic value in a seemingly Pyrrhic victory before withdrawing from the front and later turning around and invading Russia just a few weeks later.
"I want to note and I want everyone to know that the financing of the entire Wagner group was fully ensured by the state," Putin admitted, according to state media. "We fully financed this group from the Defense Ministry, from the state budget."
These funds went toward salaries for Wagner mercenaries and incentive rewards, the Russian leader said. An additional 80 billion rubles allocated from the state (just under $1 billion) went to Prigozhin's catering company, Concord, which provided food to the military. Insider could not independently verify these funding figures.
"Hopefully, nobody stole anything during these activities or, let's say, stole less," Putin said. "We will obviously look into all this."
Putin's remarks shine a light on what has traditionally been a murky relationship with the Wagner Group that has operated on behalf of Moscow's interests in various locations across Africa and the Middle East and now in Ukraine. Its fighters have been accused in several countries of committing widespread human rights abuses and other atrocities against unarmed civilians.
Private military companies like the Wagner Group are technically illegal in Russia. But the ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine thrust the notorious mercenary organization into the public eye as it battled alongside Russia's regular military — eventually registering as a legal entity in late 2022.
Wagner, which helped meet Russian manpower needs, played a key role in Moscow's efforts to capture Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region that emerged as a fixation for Russia-linked forces desperate for a victory amid a struggling war and hoping to grind down the Ukrainian army in a battle of attrition. After nearly a year of brutal and intense fighting, which left Bakhmut in complete ruins, Wagner eventually claimed to have captured the city in May.
But Bakhmut — the longest and bloodiest battle of the war — came at an extremely high cost for Wagner, which saw over 20,000 of its fighters killed in the months-long effort to capture the city. Emphasizing this, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley at one point described the Bakhmut campaign as a "slaughter-fest" for Russian forces.
Throughout the battle, tensions flared between Prigozhin and Russia's defense ministry. Months of feuding, which often saw him publicly discredit official Russian narratives on the war often more positive than the reality on the ground suggested, finally reached a boiling point on Friday when Prigozhin accused Moscow's military leadership of conducting a deadly strike on Wagner fighters, a charge the Kremlin denied.
Prigozhin seized on the opportunity to blast Russia's defense ministry as "evil" and incited his mercenaries to carry out an armed rebellion against the military leadership. Wagner fighters quickly captured the southern city of Rostov-on-Don before continuing on toward Moscow, where the city was bracing for battle.
Before Wagner convoys could reach Moscow on Saturday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko brokered a peace deal that saw Prigozhin call off his fighters in exchange for his exile in Belarus. The potential for significant bloodshed was averted, but not before the Kremlin-financed Wagner Group managed to down several Russian aircraft and kill the pilots.
Ukrainian and Western officials said the chaotic and historic uprising exposed — and will continue to highlight — major cracks in the Russian power structure and seriously undermined Putin's authority.
"Sixteen months ago Russian forces were on the doorstep of Kyiv in Ukraine thinking they'd take the city in a matter of days, thinking they would erase Ukraine from the map as an independent country," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS News on Sunday. "Now, over this weekend, they've had to defend Moscow, Russia's capital, against mercenaries of Putin's own making."
Read the original article on Business Insider