Why Russia is relying on Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine

'Putin's Chef' and a stalemated war, explained

Vladimir Putin.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images)

The number of Russian mercenaries in Ukraine is soaring, BBC News reports. Fighters with the Wagner Group "have ballooned from 1,000 to nearly 20,000," a sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly relying on private soldiers to wage his faltering war. The mercenary group has attracted the attention of U.S. officials: The Biden administration this week unveiled new sanctions against Wagner. "The Wagner Group is one of the most notorious mercenary organizations in the world and is actively committing atrocities and human rights abuses across Ukraine," said the Commerce Department's Alan Estevez. What is the Wagner Group, and how are mercenaries impacting the Russo-Ukraine war? Here's everything you need to know:

What is the Wagner Group?

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.