March 09, 2023

The Wizard and His Little Wagners


The Wizard and His Little Wagners
At the inauguration event of the Wagner Group's new youth organization. Meduza, Instagram.

The Russian paramilitary mercenary organization Wagner Group hosted an event in St. Petersburg to inaugurate its youth club, "Wagnerenyok" (Little Wagner).

Law student Alexander Tronin, a former member of the youth parliament in St. Petersburg, runs the club. Tronin's involvement began when he was kicked out of the far-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. After the incident, representatives of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin recruited Tronin to run their youth organization.

The youth group began its work in late January. Wagnereniok aims to recruit teens and connect them to prominent Wagner Group members, the military, and high-ranking government officials, including famous former spy Maria Butina.

Wagnereniok's VKontakte page states: "The Youth Club implements various activities and everyone can find something to their liking. Starting from military-patriotic training and volunteering, ending with a political club and debates." Participants can submit projects for funding as "patriotic projects." Wagner has previously hosted a youth hackathon meant to improve military drones. To be considered for admission, new members must contact the group on social media, bring their passports, and provide two photos and an autobiography.

The press event was presided over by Victor Shmarkovsky, a former special forces agent who reportedly puzzled the audience with claims that he uses hypnosis to recruit participants. When an attendee prompted him, the former agent said he "radiates delta waves." According to Schmarkovsky, his brain is tolerant to any blow because of an accumulation of fluid formed in a particular zone. Shmarkovsky proceeded to call himself the "child of the first atomic bomb."

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