What the Wagner Group tells us about Russia

The war against Ukraine

Programme editor
This programme will delve into the role of PMC’s, with a specific focus on the Wagner Group, in the war against Ukraine. In this war the group of mercenaries is known for its particularly violent and criminal behaviour. We’ll explore Putin’s strategies for maintaining control over PMCs to avert future rebellions and discuss the broader implications of these events on Russia’s international standing. Beforehand, there’s a documentary theatre piece by Russian filmmaker and journalist Yulia Vishnevets. A play based on conversations from a Telegram chat among the wives and mothers of Wagner mercenaries.

The world watched as Yevgeny Prigozhin led his Wagner Group to Moscow in the summer of 2023. They managed to approach the capital closely before Prigozhin struck a deal with Putin. Not long after, he died in a mysterious plane crash.

More about the talkshow
Experts analyse the role of Private Military Companies (PMCs), particularly the Wagner Group. What role did they play in the war against Ukraine? How is Putin attempting to tighten his control over PMCs to prevent future mutinies? Additionally, we’ll examine how the aftermath of their march on Moscow influences Russia’s geopolitical position, especially in Africa, where the Wagner Group has been notably active recently.

Joining us is Brigadier General Han Bouwmeester, who is professor of Operational Military Sciences at the Dutch Defence Academy, and Dutch journalist Eva Cukier, a Russia reporter and former correspondent for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Russian filmmaker and journalist in exile Yulia Vishnevets, who wrote a documentary play based on conversations from a Telegram chat among the wives and mothers of Wagner mercenaries will also join the discussion. The play will be performed at De Balie at 14:00, in Dutch, with English subtitles. More information here.

About The war against Ukraine

With this three-part programme series, which is partially funded by NATO, we want to provide in-depth analysis of current affairs and facilitate nuanced debate, thus making complex material accessible. How have Russian-Western relations changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, how does Russia view its relations with former Soviet States, and what motivates the EU, NATO and the USA? What are the consequences of the hybrid forms of warfare? Such as cyber- and psychological warfare, and economic sanctions.

To understand the current state of affairs, The War against Ukraine series will focus on the larger historical, societal and cultural context.

About Yulia Vishnevets

In September 2022, Yulia Vishnevets (journalist, documentary filmmaker and director of over 20 non-fiction films) was detained while trying to film an anti-military demonstration in Dagestan. She spent 5 days in prison in a North Caucasian village and had to leave Russia being at risk of criminal prosecution.

As of now, she splits her time between Tbilisi and Berlin.


Brigadier General Han BouwmeesterProfessor Operational Military Sciences
Eva CukierJournalist NRC Handelsblad
Yulia VishnevetsFilmmaker, playwright, and journalist

Before this discussion, the play To Wait is Harder than to Bury (De vrouwen achter de Wagner Group) will be performed in Dutch, with subtitles.