Fervent admirer of the Third Reich and guilty of atrocities around the world, Dmitri “Wagner” Outkine gave his alias to the Russian paramilitary group he co-founded with Evgueni Prigojine. According to Russian civil aviation, he was among the 10 passengers who died in the airplane crash in which the militia leader also perished.
Did the Wagner group get decapitated in the airplane crash that occurred on Wednesday, August 23, in the Tver region northwest of Moscow? Russian civil aviation indicated that the militia leader, Evgueni Prigojine, and his right-hand man, Dmitri Outkine, were listed among the 10 passengers of the aircraft.
While Evgueni Prigojine was a well-known figure, his right-hand man carefully stayed out of the limelight and away from public scrutiny. However, this 2-meter-tall bald giant was far from unnoticed. Remaining as usual in the shadows, Prigojine gave him a voice in a video released in July, in which he announced that the Wagner group would no longer operate in Ukraine but in Africa.
Amid cheers from his men, he can be heard saying: “Thank you, guys, thank you for your work. Thanks to this work, the SMP Wagner is known worldwide. This is not the end, it’s only the beginning of the biggest job in the world that will soon be done. And welcome to hell.”
Little is known about this man. We have to rely on the extensive investigation conducted by the investigative website Bellingcat to gather some information. Dmitri Outkine was born in 1970 in the Urals.
He was a lieutenant colonel in the Russian army during the two Chechen wars (1994-1996 and 1999-2009). As the intensity of the conflict decreased, he was transferred near the Estonian border in Petchory and served for ten years as the commander of GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. He left the army at that time, out of boredom away from the front, according to his ex-wife.
His next appearance is in Syria. He allegedly went to fight alongside Bashar al-Assad’s forces in 2013 as part of the Slavic Corps, at a time when mercenary activities were still prohibited in Russia.
Their only documented battle is a pitiful one, ending in the mercenaries’ defeat against a rebel group linked to Al-Qaeda. Most members of the Slavic Corps were arrested upon their return from Syria. Was Dmitri Outkine among them? The answer remains uncertain.
However, the mercenaries and Dmitri Outkine quickly found themselves in Ukraine when the conflict erupted in 2014. Moscow needed men to support the separatists in Donbass and Crimea while being able to deny their existence.
It is in this context that the Wagner militia was founded, to which the Russian giant lent his alias. He proudly wore this name because Richard Wagner was Hitler’s favorite composer.
Fascinated by Nazism
Dmitri Outkine didn’t hide the fact that he was a fervent admirer of the Third Reich. Photos of him shirtless show two tattoos on the base of his neck that reference Nazism: the SS symbol and an eagle with a swastika. This undermines the Kremlin’s official communication presenting the war in Ukraine as a special operation aimed at denazification.
With Wagner, Outkine became a globetrotter of war. While in the spring of 2014, the former paratrooper and his men operated in Crimea, they then returned to Syria between 2015 and 2018 in support of Russian forces.
At that time, he enjoyed the favor of the Kremlin. In December 2016, he was decorated with the Order of Courage by Vladimir Putin himself for his role in the capture of Palmyra. A photograph of him with Putin was circulated on social media and constitutes one of the few known images of the mercenary with his face uncovered.
From 2017 to 2019, the Wagner group fought in Sudan alongside the dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in 2019. In the spring of the same year, around 300 Wagner mercenaries were in Libya to support Khalifa Haftar, the general of the Libyan National Army.
There are conflicting reports about his role in the Wagner mutiny in June 2023, according to Le Monde. According to one of his former comrades-in-arms, Dmitri Outkine stayed away, while Orden Respubliki, an underground organization hostile to the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine, claims that he led the column of mutineers himself.
EU sanctions target
Despite his desire to remain in the shadows, Dmitri Outkine has long been on the radar of international authorities. In the Official Journal of the European Union dated December 2021, in a profile, it is stated that while serving in Wagner, “he is responsible for serious human rights violations committed by the group, including acts of torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings.”
Over the years, Dmitri Outkine has been presented as the “founder” of Wagner, but in 2020, the investigative website Bellingcat questioned his role within the organization. Their investigation suggests that he was actually a mere “decoy,” more of a “hired killer” than the mastermind, used to conceal the involvement of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
“His role was more of a field commander,” say the investigators. A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies published the same year supports this claim.
His death in this airplane crash raises questions: “The plane was carrying both Evgueni Prigojine and Dmitri Outkine, which is very rare. The two men almost never traveled together to avoid precisely this type of scenario,” says Stephen Hall, a Russia expert and political scientist at the University of Bath in England.