Who was Dmitry Utkin? He was a key soldier working for Wagner who died with Prigozhin. Dmitry Utkin, a mysterious figure whose call sign “Wagner” is said to have inspired the name of the Russian private mercenary group, and Yevgeny Prigozhin perished in a plane accident on Wednesday.
Utkin, who served in the Russian military intelligence, is frequently cited as the founder of the Wagner Group. However, many analysts now believe that this rumor was a pretext for Prigozhin, who only recently acknowledged his leadership role in the armed group.
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The identity of the 53-year-old veteran aboard the doomed private aircraft that crashed between Moscow and St. Petersburg remains a mystery.
Here is the pertinent information:
The transition of Utkin from career officer to mercenary
Utkin, born on June 11, 1970, in Asbest, a town on the slopes of the Ural Mountains named for its Asbestos industry, appears to have entered the military at age 18.
According to his online resume, uncovered by the investigative website Bellingcat, he served in the Spetsnaz GRU, Russia’s military intelligence division, from 1988 to 2008. He served as a lieutenant colonel in Russia’s two conflicts in Chechnya from 1994 to 2000.
It is unknown when he departed the military, but in 2013, he appears to have been employed by the Slavonic Corps, a mysterious private military company (PMC) based in Hong Kong.
The only known deployment of the PMC was in Syria, where they allegedly lost a conflict against al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters.
The beginning of Wagner
The Wagner Group first surfaced in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and began supporting separatist rebels in the country’s eastern region.
The group was believed to be named after Utkin’s call sign Wagner, a reference to Richard Wagner, Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer.
It is unknown how involved Utkin was in forming the group, but it has been established that he played a pivotal role in the conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine and was even injured in the battle.
Ukrainian signal intelligence subsequently confirmed his role in the war, which intercepted phone conversations between him, Colonel Oleg Ivannikov of the GRU, and Major-General Evgeny Nikiforov, the commander of the 58th Russian Army.
Multiple sources indicate that Utkin and Wagner were active in Syria and on the African continent between 2015 and 2022.
In 2021, a BBC investigation linked him to documents revealing Wagner’s participation in the Libyan civil conflict. He is also accused of issuing the order to bludgeon to death a Wagner defector and filming the execution in Homs, Syria.
In 2016, he was awarded the Order of Courage by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin for his service in Ukraine.
Utkin appears to have participated in the lengthy and brutal battle for Bakhmut in 2022 following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Nonetheless, according to some reports, he remained focused on the group’s activities in Africa and Syria.
Was Utkin a participant in the Wagner uprising?
During his tenure with Wagner, Utkin remained a mysterious and elusive figure, unlike Prigozhin, who appeared to enjoy the limelight.
His role in the July mutinous march on Moscow is uncertain, but reports indicate he may have commanded one of Wagner’s columns. He appears to have remained loyal to Prigozhin and the group until his death.
In a video uploaded to a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel shortly after the group was exiled to Belarus, Utkin and Prigozhin are seen addressing a group of combatants together.
A voice approximating Utkin’s was heard saying, “This isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning of the world’s largest job, which will be carried out very soon,” before adding, “Welcome to hell.”Utkin was a Nazi?
Utkin was, without a doubt, a Nazi sympathizer.
One of the few available photographs of Utkin is a snapshot in which a Nazi eagle and a Schutzstaffel (SS) symbol are visible on his body.
According to Bellingcat, he has an “obsessive fascination” with Third Reich history.
The Wagner Group has been plagued by accusations of Nazi sympathizers and the spray painting of swastikas and SS symbols for decades. A leader of Rusich, a Wagner subsidiary, was captured on camera in Ukraine in April 2022, donning the Valknot and Tatenkoph of the 3rd SS Panzer Division.