Leaked Pentagon Docs Show Russia's Brutal Wagner Mercenaries Have Ambitions in Haiti

The top-secret documents show Vladimir Putin's favorite mercenary group has global plans well beyond fighting in Ukraine.
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin his school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg on September 20, 2010
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin his school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg on September 20, 2010.  (Photo by ALEXEY DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

The leaked Pentagon documents that have become an intelligence nightmare for the U.S. government after circulating in, among other places, a Minecraft forum also shed light on the growing global ambitions of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary outfit working hand in hand with the Kremlin.


Led by an apparently villainous chef, Yevgeny Prigozhin—a catering and business oligarch closely allied to President Vladimir Putin—Wagner has emerged from the war in Ukraine as one of the most talked about features of the Russian offensive for its brutality. Prigozhin’s troops, composed of convicts and other volunteers linked to war crimes, have been key to the siege of Bakhmut—a meat-grinding battle in Donbas between mostly Wagner fighters and Ukrainian forces. Though at least under partial control of the Kremlin, Wagner has acted as a semi-autonomous military force inside Ukraine and around the world, which allows for the export of Putin’s most cynical geopolitical ambitions while giving him the veneer of plausible deniability. 

But the leaked top-secret Department of Defense documents, some potentially tampered with but the veracity of which has led to a DOJ criminal investigation, have provided a portrait of some of Wagner’s global ambitions. Among them a desire to send Russian mercenary troops some 800 miles south of Florida to the embattled country of Haiti, which has faced a litany of security issues since its president was assassinated by Colombian mercenaries in a 2021 coup.


“As of late February, Wagner associates planned to discreetly travel to Haiti to assess the potential for contracts with the Haitian Government to fight against local gangs, according to law enforcement reporting,” reads one of the photographed slides in the cache of documents reviewed by VICE News. 

Russian military and intelligence assets attempting to gain a foothold in the Americas to threaten U.S. regional ambitions is a tale about as old as time. Whether positioning nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962 or arming various Communist-backed paramilitaries in Latin America, the Soviet Union often looked to flex its security powers near the American mainland. In recent years, Nicaragua has allowed Russian troops to train in its territory, in what many saw as more of Putin using a Soviet-era provocation to taunt the Biden administration during its struggles in Ukraine.

But if Wagner was even capable of sending mercenaries so close to the U.S. it would represent an escalation of tensions between the Kremlin and Washington, almost certainly necessitating an American reaction if Wagner were actually successful in deploying to Haiti. It’s important to remember that while the Russian mercenary company has gained global name recognition for its efforts in Ukraine and Africa, it isn’t an endlessly financed or manned organization and is facing increased pressures from inside Russia. Prigozhin’s mercenary company has sustained crippling losses and over 30,000 casualties, while fighting Ukrainian forces.


An American intelligence source with knowledge of Russian intelligence capabilities, who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, told VICE News that in the event Wagner Group were even able to send mercenaries to Haiti it would match up to its other operations, “all over West Africa and Latin America.” 

“They’ll work for anyone and offer dictators coup security,” they said, referring to vulnerable national leaders who might employ the Russian mercenaries as private security details and a loyal military force. 

“They gravitate towards regions of political instability with the stated purpose of providing security. Haiti fits that bill,” they said, adding that Wagner “can be cowboys in Syria” but it would also be a surprising development for the Russian mercenaries to boldly send troops so near the U.S.

The Pentagon has said that it is investigating the leaked documents and acknowledged the damage it has already done. 

“We're not going to get into the validity of the purported documents posted online, but a Pentagon team continues to review and assess the veracity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites and that appear in some cases to contain sensitive and highly-classified material,” said a Pentagon spokesperson in a Monday briefing. “We're still investigating how this happened, as well as the scope of the issue.”


The CIA declined to comment on the leaks to VICE News. In the past, the agency has publicly acknowledged it is covertly attempting to disrupt the Russian mercenary group’s activities in Africa and elsewhere.

The documents, if entirely real, offer several other startling looks inside alleged Wagner schemes. According to one top secret report in the same cache, U.S. intelligence found that Wagner was working with people inside another NATO partner and member state, to secure new weapons.

“Russian private military company Wagner personnel in early February met with Turkish contacts to purchase weapons and equipment from Turkey for Wagner’s efforts in Mali and Ukraine, according to a signals intelligence report,” the alleged leaked intelligence said. “Additionally, Malian Transition President Golta had confirmed that Mali could acquire weapons from Turkey on Wagner’s behalf.”

The Turkish government did not respond to VICE News regarding the allegation that entities within the country were in contact with Wagner.

The same series of slides also showed how Wagner is willing to utilize its West Africa-based mercenary forces, including what the leaked documents say is 1,645 of their contractors in Mali, to destabilize neighboring Cote d’Ivoire—a country that France is eyeing as a security partner.


Colin Clarke, an analyst on the mercenary group and the director of research at intelligence consultancy firm the Soufan Group, says the leaks, if accurate, show just how determined Wagner is to continue pursuing business around the world even in the midst of what would be considered horrendous PR—and that there are interested buyers.

“The leaked documents shed some interesting light on Wagner and demonstrate that Wagner is even more aspirational than most people were aware of,” Clarke told VICE News. “I don't think Wagner's brand has been damaged in the way I would've guessed a year ago.”

Clarke explained that clearly Wagner is filling a need around the world, for regimes less interested in human rights and more on results. 

“Wagner is willing to do the dirty work and that's something that's still in demand,” he said, “especially in countries where the rule of law is weak and human rights are considered an afterthought, if mentioned at all.”