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Russia’s Private Military Contractors:
Cause for Worry?1

The World In Which We Live

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CRT0JM

Russian servicemen, dressed in historical uniforms, take part in a military parade rehearsal in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral at Red Square in central Moscow, 6 November

by Sergey Sukhankin and Alla Hurska

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Dr. Sergey Sukhankin is a Research Fellow in the Jamestown Foundation, and an Advisor with Gulf State Analytics, both located in Washington, D.C. He also teaches at the MacEwan School of Business in Edmonton. Sergey has consulted with various high-profile bodies and agencies, including the DIA (Washington), CSIS and the DND (Ottawa), and the European Parliament in Brussels.

Alla Hurska is an Associate Fellow with the International Centre for Policy Studies (Kyiv), and an Analyst in the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, and she is pursuing her Masters degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Her areas of interest include Russian and Chinese policies in the Arctic region, non-linear forms of warfare, disinformation, Ukrainian foreign and security policy, and the geopolitics of oil.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CP1YF8

Russian soldiers, on armoured vehicles, patrol a street in Aleppo, Syria, 2 February

Introduction

Two major geopolitical shifts – the Syrian civil war and the Ukrainian conflict – drew attention of the global academic and policy-related community to the issue of Russia’s private military companies (PMCs) and the so-called Wagner Group, which has become the living symbol of Russia’s covert use of ‘shady’ militarized groups in a powerplay against the west and its allies as well as securing Russia’s geo-economic/strategic interests abroad.

Although they are effective as a tool against weaker opponents, we argue that Russian PMCs should not be viewed as a strategic element in Russia’s military toolkit. Indeed, they are effective only when paired with Russia’s regular armed forces. We contend that PMCs are unlikely to be used against NATO members directly. Nevertheless, Russia will continue employing these forces in zones of instability as a means to engage the West in non-linear and asymmetric fashion.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2D0T32D

Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen march near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, 5 March

Russian PMCs throughout History

Russia’s reliance upon non-state actors dates back to the second half of the 16th Century.2 In general, in Tsarist Russia, militarized irregular formations, primarily Cossacks, were employed by the state for various (para)military tasks, including ensuring physical safety of the Russian monarch and, using contemporary parlance, confronting “hybrid threats.”3 Russian irregulars played a visible role in all major regional conflicts waged by the Tsarist regime, frequently acting as proto-special forces that were partly tasked with protection of the Russian national border in the areas populated by the non-Russian peoples. In the course of the Russian Civil War (–), both sides of the conflict also actively relied upon and collaborated with various forms of irregular formations and armed groups.4

During the Soviet period (–), the state primarily used irregulars in pursuit of its geopolitical objectives. Specifically, in its confrontation with the western powers in the Third World, that is, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Soviets would use “military instructors” – active military5 sent to ‘friendly countries’ to assist local armed forces in training, yet on many occasions directly participating in combat.6 The Soviet state acted as both contractor and provider of these services, whereas pecuniary motives were almost completely overshadowed by ideological calculations.7 However, in the s, this trend experienced a certain transformation: in Libya, the Soviet military instructors and advisors started to be used by the government of Muamar Gaddafi in his adventurous “border wars.”8 Upon the dissolution of the USSR, many of them chose to remain in Libya and serve Gaddafi,9 de-facto becoming the first Russian private military contractors in Africa.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in dealt a severe blow to state institutions and Russian society. An abrupt and ill-planned transition to a market economy destroyed or badly damaged key governmental structures. Two of the main ‘victims’ were the security services and the armed forces. Chronically underfinanced and occasionally humiliated by the new regime,10 this branch of the Russian state started to lose some of its most qualified cadre to various ‘business’ (de-facto semi-criminal) structures.11 Thus, the roots of Russia’s current PMCs industry should be acknowledged within this historical epoch (–). However, it would not be adequate to refer to a single source. Instead, we propose to take a look at the following three (intertwined) groups.

ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo/BPBDBC

Russian servicemen keep position in the administrative border between Daghestan in Chechnya, 25 May

The first group consists of ‘volunteers’ who had participated in conflicts throughout the post-communist period in places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Transnistria, Tajikistan, Chechnya, and the Balkans (Bosnia).12 As noted by a distinguished Russian military officer, Igor Girkin/Strelkov, a participant in hostilities in Bosnia himself,13 many “volunteers” were drawn to these “gray zones” for “résumé building”: to later join either Western PMCs or the private security structures.14

A second set of groups comprises ‘private armies’ organized in the s as a result of an expanding Russian criminal web.15 To gain military experience, their members took part in some regional conflicts, including Chechnya, where they fought “on both sides of the barricades.”16 Within this sub-group, special attention should be allocated to Roman Tsepov, the owner of a security firm named “Baltik-Eskort” (). The firm – which began as an idea of Viktor Zolotov, the current Director of the National Guard of Russia and a member of the Security Council – was tightly connected to some of Russia’s most powerful organized criminal groups (the Tambov Gang), and rendered security services to the family of (then) St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and also for his deputy at the time, Vladimir Putin.17 Later, “private armies” were disbanded with some of its members and leaders being either killed or moved to private security companies (PSCs).

ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo/2A8CPM3

Viktor Zolotov, head of the Russian Federal National Guard Service, makes remarks at the unveiling of a monument to Russian National Guard officers killed in the line of duty at Pobedy Square, Ryazan, Russia, 8 November

A third group consists indeed of those PSCs. The most well-known players on the Russian market were Antiterror-Orel, Antiterror, Redut-Antiterror.18 Particular attention should be paid to the Moran Security Group (founded in ) – a spin-off of the Antiterror PSC. Unlike similar groups, Moran consisted of a “consortium” of smaller companies, and even had a ‘marine’ branch, which owned a number of vessels, Ratibor (ESU), Maagen (E5U), Anchor 1 (E5U) and Deo Juvante (E5U). The company offered a much broader set of services than the ‘standard packages,’ with some Russian sources even claiming: “…one of the company’s clients was Bashar al-Assad.”19 In effect, there is every reason to believe that the origins of the Wagner group were somehow related to Moran: not only did it stand behind the Slavonic Corps Limited PMC, but also ties of some of the Moran members – including Alexander Kuznetsov20 – with Wagner have also been proven.

Russia vs. the World: Differences in Practices

As Norwegian research specialists in Russian military and security politics Åse Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll indicate, the range of services typically provided by the Western private military security companies (PMSCs) consists of “protective security services, military support, and state building services” and “[Western companies] will generally shy away from services that will associate them with mercenaries.”21 Indeed, some tragic occurrences that have happened in the past primarily either resulted from the necessity of self-defence, or were a result of tragic mistakes. One of them was the infamous “Baghdad Massacre” (16 September ) that involved Blackwater,22 when members of this PMSC killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square while escorting a U.S. embassy convoy. Of note, Western PMSCs are completely legal.

For their part, Russian PMCs, such as the Wagner Group, were created for diametrically- opposed reasons, and they operate in line with a different logic. Russian PMCs, de-jure non-existent and prohibited by the Russian Penal Code,23 should be viewed as a part of “Active Measures ”24: (a) a tool of Russia’s covert power politics in strategically important areas; and (b) “power economy” (silovaja ekonomika), “…a state-controlled system of coercion (including a reliance on limited-scale military conflicts, if necessary) aimed at realizing economic goals.” Therefore, one crucial detail should be noted: (il)legal status of Russian PMCs is not a coincidence – it is a reflection of their true purpose. At the same time, acts of violence accompanying activities of Russian PMCs are not coincidental/defensive. As rightfully noted by Jānis Bērziņš, “Russians, PMCs must be understood as mercenaries in the worst sense of the word,” whose main objective is to avoid the direct involvement of Russian armed forces.26

What is the Wagner Group?

Among Russian PMCs, the Wagner Group is the most prominent. Its emergence was by no means spontaneous. The Russian General Staff first entertained the necessity to organize PMCs for various “delicate missions abroad” as early as 27 Yet, it took no concrete steps in this direction. In , Boris Chikin, one of the founders of the Moran PMC, lamented that the global PMC market was being divided between Western players and the lack of opportunities for Russian companies. In effect, a predecessor of the Wagner Group, the Slavonic Corps Limited (), was a PMC created by members of the Moran Group and sent to Syria to fight on the side of al-Assad. It was destroyed near al-Sukhnah in eastern Syria.28 Apparently, Slavonic Corps Limited was a ‘trial run’ of a more ambitious and better-organized project. Incidentally, one of its leaders, Dmitry Utkin (a retired lieutenant colonel of the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff, the GU), would later become a commander of the Wagner Group in Ukraine and Syria, where, playing a key role in capturing Aleppo, he would later be decorated with the Order of Courage during a gala held in the Kremlin.29

ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo/DWGGG

Aleppo, Syria, during the Syrian civil war, 3 April

The Ukrainian crisis played a pivotal role in emergence and the rise of the Wagner Group, whose actual emergence dates to May , and the outbreak of armed conflict in the Ukrainian Southeast, where the group would take part in all major engagements (the Battle of Luhansk Airport, the Battle of Debaltseve), subversive/terrorist operations (the Il shoot-down; provocations in the rear of the Ukrainian armed forces; intelligence gathering), and ‘quelling’ of the (pseudo-) Cossacks and local strongmen acting as ‘cleaners’ (chistilshiki).30 While in Ukraine, the group practiced some of the tactics learned earlier in Syria and used by Islamic radicals, which, aside from operations in small and highly maneuvering groups, (commensurate with general principles of non-linear operations that include sabotage, guerrilla/partisan warfare, rapid penetration of the frontline and operations in the enemy’s rear), also included the employment of armoured jeeps/vehicles when attacking the enemy formations.31 The “Ukrainian chapter” of Wagner’s history had a crucial meaning, becoming a training polygon and a form of ‘marketing tool,’ advertising the group and its capabilities to third parties.

Ukraine accordingly became a springboard for the group towards much more economically lucrative missions in Syria. Still, operations in Ukraine also played an essential role in the transformation of the entity in terms of its composition, primarily reflected in the decreasing quality of its personnel. Between and , according to various testimonies, the core of the group was indeed predominantly composed of highly skilled professionals with vast ‘hands-on’ experience gained in various regional conflicts. During this period, functions performed by Wagner could be, at some level, compared to tasks vested upon the Russian Special Operations Forces – a flexible, multi-functional force combining qualities of Spetsnaz and the armed forces.32 However, with a swelling in the rank-and-file of the PMC, the entrance requirements and training standards plummeted.33 Between and , the tasks performed in Syria by the group drifted away from military operations toward forceful seizure (“otzhim” in Russian slang) of oil- and gas-fields/facilities from the anti-al-Assad forces. Further, there is every reason to believe that, at least in part, the group started acting increasingly in concert with pro-Assad forces (uncoordinated, highly diverse and demonstrating not very good war-fighting qualities) and its coordination with the Russian side started to loosen. This transformation increased resentment from the side of Russian neo-conservative nationalists (such as Strelkov), who condemned the Wagner Group and the Russian government for betrayal of Russia’s national interests and of drifting away from Russia’s key mission (creation of the Novorossiya).34 Incidentally, one of such missions co-carried out by Wagner led to a debacle near Deir ez-Zor, where the group suffered its largest losses, due to the results of an aerial strike dealt by US forces.35

Hassan Blal/Alamy Stock Photo/PGGKXP

What remains of the Deir ez-Zor suspension bridge, 11 August

In discussing the Wagner Group in Syria, one should make two observations. First, a common inaccuracy is that in Syria, “… the Wagner Group is often used as elite infantry.”36 Although this assumption might be somewhat applicable to the “Ukrainian chapter” of the Wagner history, this argument does not apply to its experiences in Syria. Close analysis of operations carried out by Wagner in Syria suggest the group primarily performed the most arduous tasks in areas of maximum risk or danger. Alternatively, it served as an auxiliary force that assisted Russian regular armed forces – the SOF, on the ground, and the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) through coordination and terrain reconnaissance37 – to minimize casualties among Russian regular armed forces akin to Afghanistan and both Chechen wars. Indeed, according to various estimates, the official number of Russian contract soldiers (kontraktniki),38 who were killed in Syria in military engagements was significantly lower than any other party involved. This fact, even though much praised by the Russian military and pro-Kremlin information outlets, failed to attribute some credit to the Russian PMCs that took part in the heaviest battles. Unlike Russian PMCs, elite forces are typically used in high-precision operations – which is clearly visible in the work of the Russian SOF in Syria – and do not typically participate in potentially highly costly frontal attacks.39 The Wagner Group, however, while in Syria, was used as shockwave troops, which normally consists of tasks vested upon elite special forces.

The second aspect is related to the Deir ez-Zor disaster suffered by the Wagner Group in early in Syria. According to some experts, the defeat of the Wagner Group near Deir ez-Zor might have resulted from an alleged disagreement in between Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the reported sponsor of the Wagner Group. Thus, the inaction of the Russian Defense Ministry that led to the Deir ez-Zor massacre might have been deliberately staged “…to sacrifice the lives of the veterans who work for Wagner, in order to send Prigozhin a message.”40 However, the physical eradication of experienced veterans and, perhaps more importantly, giving the United States a reason to claim victory makes little practical sense, especially in light of Russia’s growing involvement in Libya. In effect, thorough investigations have demonstrated that in this debacle the major losses were suffered by the pro-Assad and pro-Iranian forces. By contrast Wagner occupied a marginal part of the overall advancing forces, and was unlikely to be the leading/coordinating force.41 Following this logic, this means that the Russian MoD ‘punished’ not Wagner per se, but Russia’s regional allies. This argument is not plausible. Most likely, members of the Wagner Group fell prey to a combination of poor coordination and over-confidence that the US side would not use its military-technical capabilities to confront and to repel the attacker.42 Moreover, as argued by the reputable Russian journalist Petr Kozlov, the Syrian debacle may have had a serious impact upon the Russian ruling elite.43 Furthermore, the ‘punishment theory’ may be challenged by post developments, and by Russia’s increasing involvement in Libya. Specifically, Prigozhin was spotted during negotiations between Shoygu and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in November ,44 which resulted in the Wagner Group being sent to Libya to support Haftar’s Tripoli offensive, the Operation Flood of Dignity (April ).45 Another essential aspect is related to the issue of Russian military advisors (which combined legal advisors and members of the Wagner group) in the Central African Republic (CAR), who were deployed to the country in , as a part of technical-material cooperation between the CAR political regime and the Russian MoD.46 Neither episode could have been performed without the coordination of actions between leadership of the Wagner Group and the Russian MoD.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2DP7

A rebel fighter stands on a Russian-made Scud missile that was found in Junine, about 25 km southwest of Tripoli, 3 September The missile had been directed at the city of Tripoli.

The Wagner Group: Image and Reality

Between and , the Wagner Group has been spotted operating on three continents. In this regard, one important aspect should be mentioned: the growing discrepancy between the image of the group (primarily created by Russian and Western media, based upon the group’s operations in Ukraine and Syria), and its actual capabilities. This argument gains more relevance in the light of the operations carried out by Wagner in Libya with respect to the Operation Flood of Dignity47 and Mozambique. Specifically, despite the fact that Wagner fighters have been sent to Libya to support Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli,48 its results have fallen short of its declared objective. Furthermore, as reported by both Russian and Turkish sources, the Wagner Group suffered its largest losses in manpower since the Syrian debacle in early49 These losses have resulted in certain reputational damage. According to available information, following this failure, Russian mercenaries were withdrawn from the frontline zone,50 which might stem from a combination of factors.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CHNP6A

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Mozabique’s President Filipe Nyusi during a meeting in Moscow, 22 August

Yet another disappointment has befallen the group in the Sub-Saharan Africa, a region of growing importance to the Kremlin’s geo-political/economic calculations.51 Following the meeting between the President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi and Vladimir Putin in Moscow (22 August ) – when the African guest promised “lucrative contracts” and “ample opportunities” for the Russian businesses in the country52 – Russian mercenaries were reportedly deployed in the Cabo Delgado province (northern Mozambique) to help the government in its up-to-date unsuccessful fight against locally-operating Islamic radicals.53 According to both Russian and Western sources54 in pursuit of this contract in Mozambique, Wagner ‘outcompeted’ leading western PMSCs, primarily due to an advantageous pricing policy and to good relations with the local political leadership. However, the initial excitement was soon replaced by the sobering effect made by the first military encounters with the local rebels. Ambushed by the radicals, Wagner reportedly lost several fighters, with up to twenty Mozambique official military also being killed.55 According to some unverified sources, this episode prompted the withdrawal of Russian mercenaries from Cabo Delgado.56 Indeed, these experiences have shown some structural weaknesses showcased by the private military contractors, as well as the fact that this tool, even though effective at the tactical/operative level, is unlikely to gain a strategic role in Russia’s military thinking.57 The main reason behind this assumption boils down to the following: in its actions, the Russian side is delegating PMCs with certain functions – such as military operations that they are not designed to execute, and for which they have no appropriate resources. These functions are typically performed by the regular armed forces, such as the SOF, which is specifically designed for such tasks.

Beyond Wagner: Russian Irregulars and the Western Alliance

Reflecting upon the range of challenges faced by NATO due to Russia’s use of PMCs, one essential aspect should be recognized: as the most well-known and notorious entity of its kind, the Wagner Group is neither the root of the problem nor the main peril. As it was convincingly demonstrated in Deir ez-Zor, Libya58 and Mozambique,59 the actual military capabilities of the Wagner Group depend upon various conditions. One of them is the close cooperation with Russia’s regular armed forces, which secured its success in both Ukraine and Syria. Therefore, from a strictly military perspective, Russian PMCs should not be viewed as a supreme threat, yet those forces could act as ‘spoilers,’ distracting/disrupting actions of NATO/Western powers in zones of instability.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CX6REN

Another shot of armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, marching outside a Ukrainian military base outside the Crimean city of Simferopol, 10 March

Arguably, however, a much more serious peril emanates from ‘irregulars,’ –a broad array of forces that including PMCs, Cossacks, the Night Wolves,60 members of various military-patriotic organizations/societies, and ‘hacktivists,’–that could be used to provoke and destabilize situations. The main challenge stemming from activities of this group was, perhaps, best showcased during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Success of this operation in many ways was inseparable from actions of the irregulars that performed all the “groundwork,”61 by preparing the ‘turf’ for the “little green men”62 – regular armed forces, such as the SOF and the Spetsnaz.63 Some elements of the ‘Crimean scenario’ could consist of exercises by Russia in other venues or theatres. One such potential areas is the Balkans, where Russia has been using covert operations since the earlys through proxy forces, and/or Latvia and Lithuania. Incidentally, during the Zapad strategic military exercises (14–20 September), Moscow used both local forces and the Don Army Cossacks as an auxiliary force64 on the territory of Kaliningrad oblast, which co-hosted the event. Even though this risk does exist and should not be neglected, it appears highly unlikely that Moscow would use the ‘Crimean scenario’ in or against countries that hold NATO membership. After all, the current operative theatre of Russian PMCs/irregular forces is either confined by the ‘borders’ of the post-Soviet area, or it extends to places classified as “gray zones.” This, however, does not mean that the risk should be excluded completely: Russia is likely to continue testing NATO and its allies through a string of provocations as a means to tackle cohesion of the alliance and the resolve of its members.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CR9G25

Russian military vehicles on the move during the Zapad war games near the village of Volka, Belarus, 19 September

For this purpose, Moscow is already actively using irregulars&#;– primarily, the Night Wolves, Cossacks, various military-patriotic organizations, as well as ‘hacktivists,’ – to infiltrate, provoke, destabilize and stir up things in other regions/countries/places. Out of a large number of known examples, one must recall the role of Cossacks and PMC members, covered up by the Russian MFA, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in radicalizing the Serbian youth, which came to be known as the “Zlatibor affair” – an event that caused huge resonance in the country and required the personal involvement of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The incident revealed strong ties between the Russian MFA, Cossacks, the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs and members of some PMCs that had fought in the Donbass.65 Currently, with respect to the Balkans, Russia’s attention is diverted to Bosnia, Montenegro (where Russian agents already tried to carry out a military coup in ), and Serbia, which had refused to introduce any anti-Russian sanctions as a result of the unlawful annexation of Crimea. It is highly possible that even NATO/EU membership of the above-mentioned countries would not fully stop Moscow from using covert methods.

Rawf8/Alamy Stock Photo/2BNKFJB

NATO and EU flags waving on a blue-sky background.

The second concern is premised upon developments in Russia’s westernmost region, the Kaliningrad oblast. Specifically, Kaliningrad-based Cossacks are actively establishing ties, primarily via joint para-military exercises, with The Slavic Union (Braterstwo Słowian) and The Movement for the Sovereignty of the Polish People (Ruch Suwerennośći Narodu Polskiego) – pro-Russian and anti-NATO -Ukrainian platforms.66 The direct impact of these ties should not be overrated, and yet, the collateral damage is unpredictable and might become more pronounced in the future.

The third concern relates to the Arctic region, an area of Russia’s strategic interests and massive expectations.67 As the noted French historian, sociologist, and political scientist Marlene Laruelle opines, the Arctic occupies a special place in Russia’s economic, geopolitical and ideological calculations.68 Following the Ukrainian Crisis, Russia began intensifying its efforts towards (re)militarization of the region. Russia’s strategy is on many levels commensurate with an idea brought forth by a renowned Russian military expert, Vladislav Shuryghin “[I]n the Arctic region, you do not fight wars with armies and divisions.”69 Indeed, a closer look at Russia’s manoeuvres/exercises in the region show high role of small and highly maneuvering formations – elements that are presumably seen by Russia as the main operative force in case of a limited-scale escalation in the region. Aside from military-related aspects, Russia’s actions in the region generate interest for yet another reason: by using a mix between facts and provocations and information operations.70

Conclusion

The emergence of Russian PMCs on the Ukrainian Southeast in and their subsequent (re)appearance in Syria () created a huge wave of interest toward this phenomenon among Russian and international experts, scholars, journalists, and policy makers. The initial veneer of the omnipotence and invincibility of Russian private military contractors was challenged in (Syria) and (Libya and Mozambique). Based upon these examples, it would be adequate to presume that the actual military potential demonstrated by Russian PMCs do not allow to classify this tool as a strategic element within the Russian toolkit. And yet, its importance/capabilities should not be downplayed – under certain circumstances and against specific enemies/adversaries this tool could and will be very useful. That said, we believe that the main danger to the Western alliance and, in particular, its partners, emanates from ‘irregulars’ that could be employed in various (both military and non-military) missions, acting – in the case of a potential limited-scale military escalation or preceding events – as an auxiliary forces, which was demonstrated during the annexation of Crimea.

Therefore, we argue that in the short-to-mid-term prospect, main areas of employment of Russian irregular forces (including PMCs) will extend to the following three main areas. First, actual (para)military operations will likely be performed by Russian PMCs in resource-endowed and politically unstable countries in the Middle East, the Maghreb, the Sub-Saharan Africa and (potentially) South and Central America (Venezuela and Nicaragua) as well as countries of the post-Soviet space. The employment of these forces in/against EU/NATO member-states should not be expected in a short- and mid-term prospect. Second, provocations and ‘ground testing’ as a means to test the resolve of the Western alliance – an element whose spread will extend beyond the above-mentioned area, including the Balkans, the Arctic region, and the European Union. While the actual impact of these actions should not be overstated – since Russia is unlikely to use offensive potential of irregulars (including PMCs) against EU and NATO members – the Western alliance must be cautious, since some provocations (especially with respect to the Balkans and the three Baltic States) might take place. Third, information-psychological operations as an integral part of the war of the new generation (Network-centric warfare) – an element that was demonstrated during the Crimean operation.71 That said, to understand better and perhaps even re-consider their role, potential areas of employment of Russian irregular formations (including PMCs) and their coordination with Russian regular armed forces, it would be valuable to thoroughly analyze the history of the Ukrainian crisis, paying special attention to the interim between January and February

One final aspect should be highlighted. Dr. Christopher R. Spearin of the Canadian Forces College argues that one way to curtail the activities of Russian PMCs is for the United States to place them “…in a normatively defensive context in which utilization is transparent.”72 This scenario, as confirmed by Anthony Pfaff and Edward Mienie of the US Army War College,73 looks at the problem of Russian PMCs from a Western perspective. Based upon the analysis of operative principles employed by Russian PMCs, whose functions and de-facto activities drastically differ from Western PMSCs, legal measures are unlikely to have any impact upon Russian PMCs and other semi-state actors. Although activities of irregulars could be, to some and very limited extent, confronted by legal measures, PMCs could only be targeted by military measures. By inflicting substantial damage on these mercenary formations in ‘gray zones,’ two main results could be achieved. For one, the recruiting mechanism could be disrupted because the number of qualified recruits is likely to subside dramatically. For another, and most importantly, defeats of mercenaries could well repel third parties from hiring them in the future.

Notes

  1. “This Working Paper was funded by the Defence and Security Foresight Group which receives funding from the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program designed to facilitate collaboration and mobilize knowledge between the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, and academia and other experts on defence and security issues. Through its Targeted Engagement Grants, collaborative networks, scholarships, and expert briefings, MINDS works and collaborates with key partners to strengthen the foundation of evidence-based defence policy making. These partnerships drive innovation by encouraging new analyses of emerging global events, opportunities, and crises, while supporting a stronger defence and security dialogue with Canadians.”
  2. The most well known examples include the Livonian War ( – ), the Time of Troubles ( – ) and the colonization of Siberia ( – lates).
  3. Valery Gerasimov, “Po opytu Sirii: Gibridnaya voyna trebuyet vysokotekhnologichnogo oruzhiya i nauchnogo obosnovaniya”. Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kurier, no. 9, , at: sprers.eu; See also:  Frank Hoffman, “Hybrid Warfare and Challenges,” Joint Forces Quarterly, no. 52, , at: sprers.eu; Vladimir Rauta (): Towards a typology of non-state actors in ‘hybrid warfare’: proxy, auxiliary, surrogate and affiliated forces, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, DOI: /
  4. “Irregulyarnye voyska v Rossiyskoy imperii,” sprers.eu, Accessed 2 February , at: sprers.eu¸Ñ€Ñ€ÐµÐ³ÑƒÐ»ÑÑ€Ð½Ñ‹Ðµ-войска-в-российской-имп/.
  5. Igor Eliseev and Aleksey Tikhonov, “V teni piramid,” in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, â„– (), 30 September , at: sprers.eu
  6. Sergey Sukhankin, “The Russian State’s Use of Irregular Forces and Private Military Groups: From Ivan the Terrible to the Soviet Period,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 12 April , at: sprers.eu
  7. Lavrenov S.Y. Sovietskii Soyuz w lokalnikh voinah I konfliktakh. Artel, Moscow,
  8. “Border wars” were a series of conflicts between Libya and its neighbors, including Chad, Niger and Egypt that took place in the s–s. For more information, also see: sprers.euv, sprers.euev, Sovetskaya shkola Kaddafi: Kak I chemu nauchili armiyu Muammara Kaddafi sovetskie voyennye,  SUP Media sprers.eu: Internet-izdaniya, ,  at: sprers.eu
  9. Vladimir Voronov and Aleksandr Artemyev, “Sovetskaya shkola Kaddafi,” sprers.eu, 31 March ,  at: sprers.eu
  10. Aleksandra Turchaninova, “Veteran ‘Alfy’: Eltsyn nas nenavidel ilyubil…, ” available at: sprers.eu
  11. NCnews. “Sovershenno Dokumentalnoye Rassledovanije  sekretno-Spetssluzhby oligarhov.” sprers.eu, Projekt Sovershenno Sekretno, 10 February , at: sprers.eu?v=EUZorQLtIGU. See also Mark Galeotti. The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ).
  12. Sergey Sukhankin, “From ‘Volunteers’ to Quasi-PMCs: Retracing the Footprints of Russian Irregulars in the Yugoslav Wars and Post-Soviet Conflicts,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 25 June , at: sprers.eu
  13. Igor Strelkov, “Kontrudar,” sprers.eu, 6 January , at: sprers.eu
  14. Mark Galeotti, “Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia,” in The Guardian, 23 March , at: sprers.eu
  15. “Kratkaya istoriya chastnoy ochrany RF,” sprers.eu, 2 June , at:  sprers.eu?start=1.
  16. NCnews. “Sovershenno sekretno-Spetssluzhby oligarhov.” sprers.eu, 10 February , at: sprers.eu?v=EUZorQLtIGU.
  17. Charles Gurin, “ROMAN TSEPOV, R.I.P.,” The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 93, 27 September , at: sprers.eu
  18. Sergey Sukhankin, “From ‘Volunteers’ to Quasi-PMCs: Retracing the Footprints of Russian Irregulars in the Yugoslav Wars and Post-Soviet Conflicts,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 25 June , at:  sprers.eu
  19. Sergey Lyutykh, “Umru za Rodinu. Dorogo,” sprers.eu, February 1, , sprers.eu
  20. Denis Korotkov, “Brodyaga, Sedoy, Wagner i Ratibor okruzhyli prezidenta,” sprers.eu, 21 August , at: sprers.eu
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  22. Phil Stewart, “U.S. troops in Iraq will need immunity: U.S. chief,” Reuters, 2 August , at:  sprers.eu . 
  23. Sergey Sukhankin. “’A black cat in the dark room’: Russian Quasi-Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) – ‘Non-existent,’ but Deadly and Useful,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4, Autumn
  24. Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and Enduring Legacy of the KGB (New York: Public Affairs, ).
  25. Aleksandr Ageev, “Silovaya ekonomika I smena mirovogo gegemona,” Strategicheskie prioritety, No. 2 (6) (), pp. 27–  
  26. Jānis Bērziņš. The Russian Way of Warfare (pp. 17–21), in: Current Russian Military Affairs. Assessing and Countering Russian Strategy, Operational Planning, and Modernization. SSI, Current Russian Military Affairs, Conference Executive Summaries. John R. Deni, (ed.), July
  27. Irina Malkova, Anton Bayev, “Chastnaya armiya dlya presidenta: istoriya samogo delikatnogo porucheniya Yevgeniya Prigozhyna,” in The Bell, 29 January , at: sprers.eu
  28. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,”  in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 December , at: sprers.eu
  29. “Utkin Dmitrij Valerevich,” in Myrotvorets, 16 December , at: sprers.eu
  30. Sergey Sukhankin, “Unleashing the PMCs and Irregulars in Ukraine: Crimea and Donbas” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 3 September , at: sprers.eu.  
  31. “Intervyu rossiyskikh naemnikov Botvinyevykh: ‘Wagnera’ na Donbasse trenirovali nashy kadrovye voyennye iz ‘Vympela.’ Ryadovoy ‘Wagnera’ poluchal tysyach rubley,” sprers.eu, 18 May  , at: sprers.eu
    vagnera_na_donbasse_trenirovali_nashi_kadrovye_voennye_iz.
  32. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Special Operations Forces: Image Versus Substance,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 43, The Jamestown Foundation, 27 March , at: sprers.eu
  33. Denis Korotkov, “Oni srazhalis za Palmiru,” in sprers.eu, 29 March  , at: sprers.eu
  34. Igor Strelkov (Girkin), “’Chastniki’ Chast ,”in  sprers.eu, 14 July , at: sprers.eu
  35. While the accurate number is unknown, the most realistic number of Russian mercenaries killed should be seen closer to twenty men. For more information see: Christoph Reuter, “The Truth About the Russian Deaths in Syria,” in sprers.eu, 2 March , at: sprers.eu
  36. Gostev, A., and R. Coalson, “Russia’s Paramilitary Mercenaries Emerge from the Shadows.” RFE/sprers.eu, 16 December  , at: sprers.eu.
  37. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,”  in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 December , at: sprers.eu  
  38. Sarah Fainberg. Russian Spetsnaz, Contractors and Volunteers in the Syrian Conflict. No. , Ifri, December , at:sprers.eu
  39. Examples of Budyonnovsk and other follies committed by Russian armed forces during the First Chechen War should be attributed to the general state of disarray in the Russian army. For more information see: Yuri Demin. Bitva za Budennovsk. Spetsnaz Rossii. 31 May , at: sprers.eu
  40. Kimberly Marten, “Russia’s use of semi-state security forces: the case of the Wagner Group,” in Post-Soviet Affairs, , , , DOI: /X; Kimberly Marten, “The Puzzle of Russian Behavior in Deir Al-Zour.” in War on the Rocks, at: in sprers.eu
  41. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 December , at: sprers.eu
  42. Christoph Reuter, “The Truth about the Russian Deaths in Syria,” in sprers.eu, 2 March , at: sprers.eu
  43. Petr Kozlov, “Putin zamenil rabochie poezdki na vstrechu s generalami. Vozmozhno iz-za Sirii,” sprers.eu, 13 February , at: sprers.eu
  44. Irek Murtazin, “Na etoy kukhne chto-to gotovitsya,” in Novaya Gazeta, 9 November , at: sprers.eu
  45. Samer Al-Atrush, “Libya’s Prime Minister Says Russia Mercenaries Will Drag Out War,” in Bloomberg, 14 November  , at: sprers.eu
  46. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia’s hired guns in Africa,” sprers.eu, 12 November ,  at: sprers.eu
  47. “Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s strongest warlord, makes a push for Tripoli,” in The Economist,  5 April , at: sprers.eu
  48. Samer Al-Atrush and Stepan Kravchenko, “Putin-Linked Mercenaries Are Fighting on Libya’s Front Lines,” in Bloomberg, 25 September , at: sprers.eu
  49. Liliya Yapparova, “Oni sami tolkom ne znali, kuda edut,” in sprers.eu, 2 October , at: sprers.eu
  50. “Boytsy ChVK Wagnera pokinuli liniyu fronta v Livii,”  in sprers.eu, 11 January , at: sprers.eu
  51. Sergey Sukhankin, “The ‘Hybrid’ Role of Russian Mercenaries, PMCs and Irregulars in Moscow’s Scramble for Africa,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 10 January , at: sprers.eu James Sladden, Becca Wasser, Ben Connable, Sarah Grand-Clement. Russian Strategy in the Middle East. RAND Corporation, , at: sprers.eu
  52. Edvard Chesnokov, “President Mozambika: Rossiya spisala 90% nashego dolga, my tsenim takih partnerov,” in sprers.eu, 21 August , at: sprers.eu
  53. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia Prepares a Foothold in Mozambique: Risks and Opportunities,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 15 October  , at: sprers.eu
  54. Pjotr Sauer, “In Push for Africa, Russia's Wagner Mercenaries Are 'Out of Their Depth' in Mozambique,” in The Moscow Times, 19 November , at: sprers.eu
  55. “Insurgentes Emboscam e Matam 20 Membros das FDS e cinco russos,” in Carta de Mocambique, 29 October  , at: sprers.eu
  56. “Nayemniki ChVK ‘Wagner’ otstupili iz Kabo-Delgado,” in sprers.eu, 25 November , at: sprers.eu
  57. Sergey Sukhankin, “Continuation of Policy by Other Means: Russian Private Military Contractors in the Libyan Civil War,” in Terrorism Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 3, The Jamestown Foundation, 7 February , at: sprers.eu
  58. Sergey Sukhankin, “Mercenaries in the Desert: The Kremlin’s Libya Game,” in Fair Observer, 16 October , at: sprers.eu
  59. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Mercenaries Pour Into Africa and Suffer More Losses (Part One),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 6, The Jamestown Foundation, 21 January , at: sprers.eu; Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Mercenaries Pour Into Africa and Suffer More Losses (Part Two),” 28 January , in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 10,  The Jamestown Foundation, at: sprers.eu
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  61. “Dary volkhvov pribyli v Krym,” in sprers.eu, 31 January , at: sprers.eu
  62. Mark Galeotti, “‘Hybrid War’ and ‘Little Green Men’: How It Works, and How It Doesn’t,” E-International Relations, 16 April  , at: sprers.eu
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  65. For more information, see Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs, War Veterans Running ‘Patriotic’ Youth Camps in the Balk ans (Part One),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 24 October  , at: sprers.eu; Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs, War Veterans Running ‘Patriotic’ Youth Camps in the Balkans (Part Two),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 31 October , at: sprers.eu
  66. “Politicheskiye obshchestvenniki Polshy ustroili pod Kaliningradom perfomans,” in EurAsia Daily, 26 August  , at: sprers.eu
  67. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia Prepares Ambitious Economic Strategy for Arctic Region,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 18, The Jamestown Foundation, 11 February , at: sprers.eu
  68. Marlene Laruelle. Russia’s Arctic strategies and the future of the Far North. M.E. Sharpe, Inc.,
  69. Alexandr Kruglov, Aleksey Ramm, “V Arktike budet zharko: voyska ispytayut Kraynim Severom,” in Izvestiya, 18 December , at: sprers.eu
  70. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Spetsnaz in Norway: ‘Fake News’ Versus Facts,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 9 October , at: sprers.eu 
  71. Viktor Murakhovskiy, “Krymskaya operatsiya – ochevidnyj marker kachestvenno novogo urovnya razvitiya Rossiyskoy armii,” in Natsyonalnaya Oborona, accessed 10 February , at: sprers.eu
  72. Christopher R. Spearin. “Russia’s Military and Security Privatization,” in The US Army War College Quarterly. Vol. 48 No. 2 (), pp.
  73. C. Anthony Pfaff, and Edward Mienie. Strategic Insights: Five Myths Associated With Employing Private Military Companies. Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), 5 April

Center for Strategic & International Studies

September 21,

This article is part of the CSIS executive education program Understanding the Russian Military Today.

The Russian private military company Wagner Group may appear to be a conventional business company. However, its management and operations are deeply intertwined with the Russian military and intelligence community. The Russian government has found Wagner and other private military companies to be useful as a way to extend its influence overseas without the visibility and intrusiveness of state military forces. As a result, Wagner should be considered a proxy organization of the Russian state rather than a private company selling services on the open market.1

Historical and legal background of private military companies in Russia

The post-Cold War era brought a renaissance of private security companies (PSCs) and private military companies (PMCs). Both state and non-state actors have frequently relied on their services, as these companies are more flexible, cheaper, less accountable, and often a lot more capable than regular militaries. Conflicts of the 21st century, particularly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saw PMCs getting involved on all levels, from providing logistical support to high-intensity operations.

Post-Soviet Russia followed the trend of privatization of state violence relatively late, mostly due to the internal resistance of the armed forces, as well as to economic hardships. While there are thousands of private security companies operating in the country, guarding infrastructure and providing VIP-protection services, private military companies still can not be established legally on the territory of the Russian Federation. Although certain legal loopholes, to be explained later, made it possible for a few companies resembling Western PMCs to operate in the s, Russian private military companies gained worldwide attention only in the s, as a result of their participation in the wars in Syria and Ukraine.

Russia builds on the Soviet Union’s long history of operating proxy forces abroad. For example, the so-called Soviet Volunteer Group was an air force detachment deployed to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War in Nominally, all the pilots and technicians were volunteers, and Moscow officially denied any connection to them; in fact, they belonged to the Soviet Air Force. A few years later, during the Winter War against Finland, the Soviet Union used the puppet government of pro-Moscow Finnish politician, Otto Wille Kuusinen, as a cover for its attack on Finland. The ,plus strong attacking force nominally belonged to the Kuusinen-government; however, this cover was so weak that Moscow abandoned it before the end of the war.

In the Cold War era, the Soviet Union sent thousands of military specialists under the cover of “advisors” to many conflicts worldwide, primarily the Middle East. Soviet advisors played an important role in modernizing the armed forces of Syria, Egypt, Libya, and a number of other states. In the s, Russian “volunteers” participated in the separatist conflicts of Moldova and Georgia, while the Russian state officially denied its involvement in the conflicts and labelled them civil wars.

More recently, Russian military scholars have closely studied how the United States and its allies employed PSCs and PMCs in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Russia had direct, though sporadic, contacts with Western PSCs in Afghanistan. The arms trafficking network of Viktor Bout occasionally even cooperated with several PSCs while it provided logistical services to the U.S. forces in Iraq.

Private military companies as tools of influence

The Kremlin has developed its own view of PMCs. Instead of approaching the question from the budgetary perspective—namely that PMCs are more flexible and cheaper than the regular military—Russia perceives them mainly as political-military tools of state influence, which can be employed under the cover of plausible deniability. As pointed out by Anna Borshchevskaya, in several special operations units of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) were subordinated directly to Chief of Staff Nikolay Makarov. Though there is no direct evidence, these units were probably intended to become the personnel source for private military companies to be set up in the future. A year later, Makarov publicly spoke about the need to use private military companies “for delicate missions abroad.” The logic prevailed: in April , when then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was asked in the Russian Duma about whether he supported the idea of creating a network of Russian private military companies, he replied positively and emphasized that PMCs could be tools of influence abroad, allowing the realization of national interests without the direct involvement of the state. As examples, he noted that such companies could provide protection of important facilities, as well as training for foreign military personnel abroad. Plausible deniability played a key role in Russia’s considerations about setting up private military companies, based also on the rich historical experiences Moscow has.

Another motivation for using PMCs is that it permits the Russian state to hide personnel losses from the Russian public. As these formations are formally private companies, their losses do not count in the official Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reports of how many servicemen have died or been injured. Thus, Russian MoD reports about the lost voennosluzhashchie (servicemembers) never include losses suffered by Russian private military companies operating in the same operational theater. The same logic allows Russia to deny the involvement of its proxies in the conflicts, as PMC contractors do not count as voennosluzhashchie. This is significant because Russian PMC operatives often fight in the front lines and attack difficult positions, and so their losses are much higher than those of the regular military.

The legal background

The Russian constitution specifically stipulates that all matters of security and defense belong solely to the state. Consequently, the establishment of private military companies is illegal in Russia, despite repeated efforts of certain powerful groups to change that. Pro-legalization arguments mostly center around the wide international practice of using PMCs, which would justify Russia doing the same. According to news reports, however, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other security agencies are strongly against lifting this ban.

However, there are a number of important loopholes in the Russian legislative system. While individuals are not allowed to serve as mercenaries, per the Russian Criminal Code, state-run enterprises are permitted to have private armed forces and security foundations. Combined with a usually dense de facto network of subcontractors, this allows Russian citizens to work for private military companies despite the nominal ban. Another workaround is to register companies abroad, which allows Russian authorities to ignore the operations of the “foreign” PMC. As Candace Rondeaux argues, the likely motivation of the Russian state to not push for the full legalization of private military companies is that this legal opacity adds to the overall ambiguity surrounding these entities; thus it increases the state’s freedom of maneuver in using them.

In practice, the legal environment is so permissive that most Russian private military companies prefer to recruit exclusively Russian citizens. Meanwhile, the formal ban on serving as a mercenary provides the Russian state with strong legal leverage over PMC operatives, ensuring their overall compliance with the state’s preferences.

Wagner Group is far from being the sole Russian private military company. Anna Maria Dyner lists several other Russian private military companies that have operated abroad, such as the E.N.O.T. Corporation in Syria and the Feraks group in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as the Antiterror-Orel Group and many others.

Direct predecessor of the Wagner Group: the Slavonic Corps

In line with the restrictive legal environment and the logic of plausible deniability, the so-called Slavonic Corps, a private military company, was set up in Hong Kong in by two employees of a conventional Russian PSC: the Moran Security Group. According to a Norwegian study published in , however, it was in fact the Syrian government that contracted the Moran Security Group to assist Syrian government forces in fighting the Islamic State. As Moran itself was not up to the task, even though it had been operating in Syria already for at least a year, the decision was taken to set up a new entity; this became the Slavonic Corps.

Operatives of the Slavonic Corps deployed to Syria in Their mission was to assist Syrian forces in re-capturing oil facilities from Islamic State militants. However, several coordination and logistical problems arose. The key problem was that the Slavonic Corps relied on the Syrian government for logistics, but instead of the promised modern weapons, it received outdated weaponry in insufficient numbers. Its first combat mission in Syria ended with a spectacular defeat near Deir al-Zour. Survivors were transported back to Russia, and the company was disbanded.

The Wagner Group and Its Connections to the Russian State

The private military company Wagner Group appeared shortly after the Slavonic Corps ceased to exist. While Wagner is frequently referred to as a private company connected to the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, there are several factors indicating that the entity is closely linked to the Russian state.

An important detail is that Wagner Group is not registered either in Russia or anywhere else— de jure, the company does not exist. In line with the logic of ambiguity described above, the Russian state not only tolerates but, in many cases, actively supports its actions.

The career of Dmitry Utkin

Dmitry Utkin is the founder of the Wagner Group. A veteran of both Chechen wars, Utkin served in the GRU until , after which he commanded a Spetsnaz unit, reaching the rank of a lieutenant colonel. In , he quit the service and joined the Moran Security Group, in whose ranks he participated in the Slavonic Corps’ above-mentioned, failed operation in Syria. In , he quit Moran and established the Wagner Group. The company was named after his old callsign “Vagner.” It cannot be verified whether Utkin initiated the establishment of Wagner Group or was only a front man for someone else.

Operatives of the Wagner Group, as well as Utkin himself, participated in the Russian operations in Ukraine in During the period from to , Ukrainian signals intelligence intercepted three phone conversations of Utkin reporting to GRU Colonel Oleg Ivannikov, as well as to Major General Evgeny Nikiforov, chief of staff of Russia’s 58th Army. These conversations indicated that Utkin was subordinated both to the GRU and to the Russian military command. Another indicator of Utkin’s very close connection to the Russian state is that he was photographed at a Kremlin reception held on December 9, , where he was decorated with the Order for Courage, allegedly for his services in Ukraine.

Shared base with the GRU

The main base of the Wagner Group is located in a town called Molkino, in Russia’s Krasnodar district. What makes this facility highly unusual is that it is operated jointly by the 10th Separate Special Purpose Brigade of Russia’s GRU and the Wagner Group. After passing the first checkpoint guarded by GRU soldiers, if one drives left, they will come to the GRU facility, while the road on the right leads to the Wagner barracks. An investigative report, published in the Russian journal Znak in March , revealed that despite the fiasco at Deir ez-Zor, the base was constantly expanded and new buildings were being built.

It is highly unusual for any private company to share a base with an elite, special operations military unit, and it is particularly odd that GRU personnel guard the road leading to the barracks of a PMC. The fact that Molkino base operates the way it does implies that relations between the two organizations are indeed cordial.

Reliance on Russian military infrastructure

There have been several documented occasions where Wagner operatives used transport infrastructure related to Russia’s Ministry of Defense. When Wagner operatives were deployed to Venezuela to assist President Nicolas Maduro, they arrived onboard Russian Air Force transport aircrafts, an Ilyushin IlM and an Antonov An In Libya, Russian military Ilyushin Il cargo aircrafts supply Wagner operatives fighting on the ground. Wagner personnel regularly fly in and out of Syria on military transport aircraft.

And transport is not the only sector where it can be documented that Wagner is relying on Russian military infrastructure. Multiple investigative reports confirm that operatives of Wagner Group are treated and rehabilitated in Russian military hospitals. For example, after the February defeat at Deir ez-Zor, the wounded survivors were evacuated by Russian military medical aircraft to the military hospitals in Rostov and Moscow. This detail indicates that Wagner is connected so closely to Russian military structures that their operatives are entitled to receive specialized military health care—a benefit unlikely to be received by any normal private company.

GRU-issued passports

According to reports of the Ukrainian security service (the SBU), verified by Bellingcat’s investigative reporting, Wagner operatives often use passports issued by a special passport desk in Moscow: Central Migration Office Unit This unit issues passports almost exclusively to people linked to Russia’s Ministry of Defense. It was the same Unit that issued the passports on the fake identities of the two perpetrators of the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal. Moreover, the documented passports of Wagner operatives were issued with sequential numbers, implying they were given out in groups, in an organized way. As the journalists of Bellingcat observed, this indicates that the Russian state not only tolerates but actively supports the operations of Wagner contractors abroad.

Presidential-level intervention for the sake of the Wagner Group

The last weeks of the presidential election campaign in Belarus brought an unexpected development: on July 29th, Belarusian authorities arrested 33 Russian citizens who allegedly belonged to the Wagner Group. While Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko used the story of the arrested Wagner operatives for his election campaign, accusing them of planning to interfere with the elections, independent sources revealed that, in fact, the Wagner Group has been using Belarus regularly as a transit country to various operational theaters; thus their presence on Belarusian territory was by no means extraordinary.

On July 31st, Russian President Vladimir Putin specially convened a meeting of the Russian National Security Council to discuss the issue. Thereafter, Putin raised the matter at leasttwice during his bilateral phone conversations with Lukashenko. Not surprisingly, the arrested Russian Wagner operatives were released shortly after the Belarusian elections were over, without any charges. The fact that the arrest of Wagner operatives made Putin urgently convene a special meeting of the National Security Council and that he discussed the issue directly with Lukashenko indicates that the fate of the arrested Wagner operatives was of extremely high importance to the Kremlin—which would be unlikely had Wagner not been closely connected to the Russian state.

Conclusion

Wagner is closely, often directly, connected to the Russian state. There is evidence indicating that the Wagner Group was subordinated to the Russian military in Ukraine. Wagner extensively relies on Russian military infrastructure, from using a shared base to being transported by Russian military aircraft to using military health care services. The Russian state is also documented supporting the Wagner Group with passports and, as implied by the recent events in Belarus, even by presidential-level political intervention.

Considering these factors, the transatlantic scholarly discourse about the Wagner Group should change. Instead of using the Russian narrative, according to which Wagner is a private military company, Wagner should be viewed as a classic proxy organization and handled accordingly. In this context, the fact that Wagner intends to appear as a private military company should be considered of limited relevance.

András Rácz is Senior Research Fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) operating in Berlin, Germany. The views expressed here are solely of his own, and do not represent the official position of CSIS, of any other institution, or state.

Background research for the present study has been conducted with the support of the research grant No. , titled 'Tradition and Flexibility in Russia’s Security and Defense Policy', provided by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary.

CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s). 

1An important methodological particularity is that this analysis concentrates solely on the direct connections between the Wagner Group and the Russian state. Hence, questions of oligarchic interests occasionally overlapping with Russian state priorities, which may direct Wagner’s operations in various parts of the world, are outside the focus of the present study.

Publication

Article by Akram Kharief / RLS

Libyasecuritywar

The private military company Wagner Group is the most decisive player in the military strategy of the Libyan national army, headed by Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Acting as a Russian foreign legion without the constraints of international or Russian law, it has become an instrument of power play for Vladimir Putin. Before addressing Wagner Group, it is wise to understand the roots of Russian institutional mercenarism and the reasons why Wagner is the product of a long process that has always skirted the edge of legality in Russia.

As a key figure connected with Wagner, Yevgeny Pirigozhin has become an icon of Russian Private Military Companies (PMCs). In short, Pirigozhin, (known as &#;Putin&#;s chef&#;) is an oligarch, exclusive supplier of catering to the Kremlin, and a personal friend of Vladimir Putin. As a consequence of his connections and money, and with the help of Dmitri Utkin, the former special forces officer in charge of military affairs he suggested that the Russian President create Wagner to deal with the Kremlin&#;s secret military operations. In reality, the legal and historical background of the Russian security world is far more complex and dates back to the post-Chechen War period. The use of PMCs in Vladimir Putin&#;s Russia that emerged in recent years is not new but built on centuries-old Russian practice.

The use of proxy groups to enforce internal laws or in military campaigns is a tradition in the world&#;s largest country that was once an empire. Russia has always made exceptions to the &#;state monopoly of force&#; concept. In its perception of governance, the central state could delegate this monopoly to auxiliary ethnic or religious groups provided that they paid full allegiance to the Prince/Czar/State. The Cossacks are a perfect example of this.[1]

The term &#;Cossack&#; can be traced back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and originally referred to socially constructed groups of men living as nomadic traders, mercenaries and pirates. It did not refer to an ethnic or religious group but rather a form of social identity. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Cossack groups became a threat to newly developing states by attacking settlements on their borders. They also represented potential military resources for the Moscow state, which was gradually developing and expanding as new territories were conquered and the state needed to defend and establish them as Russian territories. The Russian state eventually negotiated a contract with the Cossacks, granting them special rights over natural resources, trade, and a certain amount of administrative autonomy in the areas where they established themselves in exchange for settling and defending these territories on behalf of the state. In particular, they acted as a barrier to Muslim expansion in present-day Ukraine and southern Russia. This status vis-à-vis the Tsar persisted until the Bolshevik Revolution because the Cossacks fought on more than one side. Some fought in independent Cossack armies, others fought for the Whites, others for the Reds, and many fought for all of them. From onwards, they were subjected to a repressive campaign that killed more than one and a half million of them, and then suffered Stalin&#;s vengeance for having decided to fight for Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Today, Vladimir Putin makes extensive use of the Cossack militia to rule in Southwest Russia or to fight alongside the independence fighters in Donbass and Crimea. In , the Russian President signed a law entitled, &#;On the State Service of the Russian Cossacks,&#; which gave them the status of a state-supported militia with a government salary. This law granted more than , officially registered Cossacks in Russia the right to perform various functions usually controlled by the state. Functions such as defending border regions, guarding national forests, organizing military training for young cadets, fighting terrorism, protecting local government buildings and administrative sites, and providing the vague service of &#;defence of social order.&#; Another example of the use of proxies in the foreign wars of contemporary Russia was the deployment of Muslim Military Policemen (Chechens and Ingush) to Syria from to fight, occupy, and administer the security of cities &#;liberated&#; by the Russian army. [2]

Describing the evolution of Russian PMCs and the process that led to the media coverage of the Wagner Group

Following the collapse of the USSR, the Red Army was in total ruin, fragmented between many newly-created countries with no budget, no leadership, and drained of human resources. Entire units were demobilized, such as the Alpha unit, one of the two special intervention groups of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The first war in Chechnya would eventually deplete the latter and many soldiers, specialists and officers found themselves in the international labour market in the early s. At that time a South African company, Executive Outcomes, was recruiting pilots and aeronautical engineers to operate the helicopters and cargo planes used for its operations. Meanwhile, many former soldiers worked as bodyguards and security guards in hundreds of small security companies that were created in Russia in the early s.

One of the first security companies to export military know-how was Antiterror-Orel. Created in by former members of the special forces in the city of Orel south of Moscow, it initially had the status of a non-governmental training school. The school trained Russian companies that were active abroad on security measures. After the second Iraq war, these mainly oil and mining companies asked Orel to send protection teams to their sites. This dispatch of men was the starting point for the creation of several private military companies operating in Iraq, such as Top Rent Security, Redut-Antiterror and especially Moran Security Group, a company that still exists and is active in maritime anti-piracy and protection.  At the height of the Syrian civil war in , Moran Security Group (MSG) was called in by the government of Bashar al-Assad for a mission to protect and retake oil facilities in eastern Syria.

Since private military activity is illegal in Russia, the owners of MSG created a new Hong Kong-based company called Slavonic Corp that sent men to fight in Syria between Among these men was Dmitri Utkin, a former officer belonging to the 2nd Special Forces Brigade of the GRU (Russian military intelligence) in Pskov. He distinguished himself on the ground in Syria by mastering operational art and being a good commander. His radio call sign at the time was Wagner, in homage to the German composer Utkin was passionate about.

Back in Russia, he created a training centre in in Molkino in the Krasnodar region not far from the Georgian border. The school gradually turned into a military base adjacent to the one occupied by the GRU 10th Special Forces Brigade. This is where the Wagner Group was born.

The company received political and economic support from the Kremlin during its involvement in the war in the Donbass from [3]

 

History of Wagner in Libya

The fall of Muammar Gaddafi was very badly received by Vladimir Putin, who was Prime Minister of Russia in At the time, he openly criticized his President, Dmitri Medvedev, for not having applied the Russian veto against the UN resolution imposing the No Flight Zone in Libya. His return to the helm of the Russian Federation was marked by Moscow&#;s renewed interest in Libyan affairs and a slow rapprochement with Libya&#;s new strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar.[4]

The first Russian mercenary appearance in the region came in early with a demining contract awarded by the Libyan National Army to the Russian military company RSB-Group in the port complex of Benghazi, the country&#;s second-largest city.[5]

The Wagner Group first appeared in May during the LNA-led offensive to retake the city of Derna, the last stronghold of Islamist militias and the Islamic State in eastern Libya. In March , leaders of the private military company mentioned a forthcoming dispatch of troops to Libya to journalists of Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty)[6]. On November 7, , during his visit to Moscow, Marshal Khalifa Haftar met with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Yevgeny Peregozhin. It was not until March that detailed reports of the presence of mercenaries from Wagner in a base in Benghazi surfaced together with their participation in the various operations of the LNA. It is also reported that an amount of million dollars was paid by the United Arab Emirates to cover Wagner&#;s operations in Libya. This Gulf state, which in the past deployed men and mercenaries and has an airbase in Al Khadim in eastern Libya, has always denied funding the Russian private military company.[7]

Wagner&#;s real involvement began after the LNA&#;s general offensive to reconquer Libya on April 3, Initially timid during the first phase, which covered the South, its activities became more acute after the capture of Sebha and the offensive on Tripoli. From September and the arrival of the first Turkish military advisers in Tripoli to assist the National Accord Government (GNA), the fighting became more intense and Wagner began to count its first casualties. The use of attack drones by Turkey reversed the course of the battle for Tripoli during September and October Sources, including the Russian opposition media, Meduza, reported 35 dead in bombings[8]. In el Sebaa, 65 km south of the capital, Wagner mercenaries left many clues to their presence before retreating.

On December 12, , Khalifa Haftar announced that he had given the order to launch the &#;final battle&#; for control of Tripoli. He declared, &#;The zero hour has struck for the large and total assault expected by all free and honest Libyans.&#; Turkey responded to this declaration by sending massive numbers of troops, vast amounts of equipment, and thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Tripoli and Misrata.[9] This signalled the withdrawal of the NLA to the south and its defeat in Tripoli, which culminated in the ANL&#;s loss of the al Watya airbase and the fall of Tarhuna, the last pro-Haftar stronghold in the west, on June 5, The defeat marked a change of strategy for Wagner. Their new mission was to stop the Turkish army and the GNA forces from advancing eastward, to defend Sirte and the Libyan Oil Crescent. This mission evolved during and into the construction of a defence line separating Tripolitania from Cyrenaica and Fezzan.[10]

 

The fighters, their salaries, and their motivation

Wagner Group is estimated to have had up to 3, men under its command in Libya the majority of whom are Slavs, mainly from Russia, but also from Belarus, Ukraine, the autonomist regions of Ukraine (DNR, Novarossia, Crimea), Albania and Serbia. According to Meduza&#;s[11] investigation, soldiers are offered a salary of , rubles per month (US$3,) and up to double that for officers and specialists (gunners, snipers, sappers, anti-aircraft operators, drone pilots and aviation personnel). They are not always highly trained or ex-special forces personnel, many are basic operators with a simple military background.

Recruitment is done by word of mouth, or through ex-military associations. Recruiters canvass potential candidates with little information about the location or nature of the contract. Once recruited, they undergo coordination training at the Wagner training centre near Krasnodar or at the Vesley farm near Rostov na Dunu, which is part of the Russian army.

 

Alliances, equipment, tactics and location

On May 26, , Russia sent fighters, bombers and helicopters to Libya. Mig fighters and Sus transited through the Russian base of Hmeimim in Syria. AFRICOM accused Wagner Group of operating the aircraft in offensive missions in Libya[12]. These aircraft are not the only heavy equipment received and operated by Wagner in Libya. According to several sources and documents, the Russian PMC also received at least one Pantsir S1 air defence vehicle, different from those used by the LNA and Wagner and &#;on loan&#; from the United Arab Emirates. To protect its aircraft, Wagner used P Spoonrest radars in addition to the LNA radars.

For their armoured ground movements Wagner&#;s &#;musicians&#; use armoured vehicles manufactured in Russia by a company belonging to the Yevgeny Pirigozhin group of companies. The vehicle is called a Valkyrie, Chekan, Shchuka or Wagner Wagon[13], and is the MRAP built on a URAL chassis by the company EVRO POLIS LLC. This same company signed protection contracts with the Syrian state in the past and it possibly provides legal cover for its activities abroad.

According to Oryx Blog, Wagner uses a wide range of weapons and equipment and has also carried out repairs to the Libyan army&#;s weapons. Among the weapons imported by Wagner in violation of the embargo on arms deliveries to Libya are[14] MRAP GAZ Tigr-M, D mm guns, and MSTA mm Howitzers. More specific to the region, in terms of small arms, Wagner&#;s troops use AKs and especially the Osiris T sniper rifle, which is completely new to the region.

Wagner operated a few drones during its operations, namely, Zala Es and Orlan 10s. For its operations in Libya, Wagner&#;s mercenaries use Antonov 28 aircraft belonging to two air transport companies, Jenis Air and Space Cargo, both named by the UN Panel of Experts on Libya for possible arms embargo violations. For foreign travel, Wagner&#;s men and equipment use Russian rd Flight Wing cargo planes with mandatory stops at bases in Hmeimim, Syria, or Sidi Berrani, Egypt.

Wagner also used prohibited weapons and techniques during its withdrawal from southern Tripoli in , such as MON, 90 and anti-personnel mines, which are prohibited by the Ottawa Convention.  Some reports indicate that as they fled Tripoli in the summer of , Wagner&#;s musicians booby-trapped numerous buildings and even left behind a booby-trapped Teddy bear, as confirmed in a report by Amnesty International.[15]

 

Who are Wagner&#;s allies on the ground?

Wagner&#;s mercenaries have always found it difficult to collaborate with other Libyan militias or with the brigades of the Libyan National Army. The only actual collaboration between Wagner and a Libyan militia was with the Kaniat (7th brigade of the LNA)[16] during the evacuation of Tarhuna.

Wagner&#;s musicians enjoyed working with the Sudanese Janjaweed because of their fighting spirit. They helped the Russians stop the GNA&#;s counter-offensive towards Sirte in September There are between 3, and 6, Sudanese fighters in Libya who are based near al-Jufrah and the headquarters taken by Wagner in late [17] Another military force stationed near Wagner that collaborated with the LNA and the Russian company was the Chadian militia FACT (Le Front pour l&#;alternance et la concorde au Tchad) [18] between April and April Its ground offensives were much appreciated by Wagner.

However, in May , the Russians made a strategic decision to reinforce Wagner with Syrian fighters. So, Moscow commissioned Colonel Alexander Zorin, who was the head of the reconciliation commission in Syria to recruit mercenaries. According to Foreign Policy magazine, Zorin, better known in Syria as &#;the godfather&#; of the reconciliation agreements between the regime and rebels in Ghouta, Deraa and Quneitra, had visited southern Syria in early April , a region considered particularly fertile ground for Russian recruitment, not only because of endemic poverty but also because of the lack of support from any other regional or global power. Many rebels in the region had already pledged allegiance to Assad in July after the U.S. denied them additional aid. In cooperation with Assad&#;s intelligence officials, Zorin reportedly began negotiations with several rebel groups to send them to fight in Libya.

More than 3, Syrians joined Assad during this period for salaries of US$1, for troops and US$5, for commanders.[19]

 

What are their techniques on the ground?

Wagner is somewhat avant-garde when preparing for battles and wars or ensuring orderly withdrawal. In the case of Libya, they actively participated in the preparation of the offensive against Tripoli. The rationale behind their involvement was to prepare for a transition from a period of peace to a period of crisis. Their expertise in Libya was, for example, acts of sabotage, elimination of key personnel, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and target identification. They played a key role in the war against Bayraktar drones by identifying their storage locations or landing runways to be bombed by the LNA.

Wagner may have deployed up to 2, fighters to Libya and they were organized into four companies. The main one was a special forces company for reconnaissance in force, a tank company, a combined artillery group (MSTA, D, BM Grad), intelligence units, logistics units, and a battalion headquarters. Compared to Syria, Wagner in Libya had little tank experience but has had to increase its capabilities in war aviation and air defence. After June , and Wagner&#;s withdrawal to al-Jufrah, a military engineering capability was integrated to build a line of defence cutting Libya in half. Militarily, Wagner now deploys the equivalent of a consolidated battle group.

 

Political and media influence

Russia and Wagner played a very important role politically and media-wise in the defence of Khalifa Haftar. From a political engineering perspective, Wagner also established and maintained contacts with Saif al Islam Qaddafi after his release from prison. The contacts with Saif al Islam began at the turn of , reports the Russian media Planeta.[20] Prigozhin delegates met at least once with Gaddafi in person and also arranged phone conversations with him. The meeting took place in Zintan, a city in western Libya in early One of the documents states that this was at a secret location.

The report of the Russian delegation on the meeting with Seif on April 3, (the date of the beginning of Haftar&#;s offensive), is particularly interesting. The speaker describes the circumstances of the conversation as Gaddafi being constantly distracted by watching the news about Haftar on television and ending with recommendations for further steps. The filming of incriminating videos on Haftar by Prigozhin&#;s forces and posting them on social media networks was suggested.

One of the architects of this attempt at Russian political interference was Maxim Shugaley[21]. On the morning of May 17, , he was arrested together with his interpreter, Samer Sueifan. They spent 18 months of detention in atrocious conditions in Tripoli. Sugaley, who was 53 years old at the time went to Libya, officially as a &#;researcher and expert&#; for a &#;research project&#; launched by the &#;Foundation for the Protection of National Values&#;, a Moscow-based organization linked to Prigozhin. The chairman of the foundation&#;s board of directors, Alexander Malkevich, is under U.S. sanctions for his role in an alleged operation run by Prigozhin.

Shugaley was accused of secretly meeting with political figures, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. These meetings drew the attention of Libyan intelligence services that seized documents on laptops indicating interference in the Libyan elections. He had also conducted numerous opinion polls to feel the pulse of the street in Tripoli and other Libyan cities. In Tripoli, he was accompanied by another Russian political expert, Alexander Prokofiev, who had shortened his stay, thereby escaping arrest.

A known agent of influence, Shugaley had tried to sway the presidential election in Madagascar in favour of a pro-Russian candidate. After being released in , he will be involved in the presidential election in the Central African Republic and even be part of the Russian delegation destined to meet the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in August. He will conduct more than a hundred interviews with Afghan political figures. Another soft power channel developed by Wagner in Libya is the media and social networks.  In , The Stanford Internet Observatory identified numerous traces of Russian and Wagner involvement in the media in Libya.[22]

Our analysis of social media posts targeting Libya provides one of the first known assessments of its apparent expansion into online social influence campaigns. Similar to its actions elsewhere in Africa &#; such as its involvement in Madagascar &#; the Wagner Group seems to be hedging its bets by supporting multiple candidates. The posts reviewed indicate, in support of previous reports, that Russia is also supporting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. All site administrators are in Egypt along with at least one additional administrator in another country. Wagner also favours channelling local and regional information in large sparsely-populated countries where it is very difficult to move from one region to another. The group also financed the relocation and modernization of former state-owned (under Gaddafi) al-Jamahiriya television[23], which remains a very popular medium in Libya. Once again, it was to Egypt, Wagner&#;s home base, that the studios of this television station were transferred.

 

Outlook

On 13 December , EU foreign ministers decided to impose sanctions on the Russian private military contractor Wagner as well as eight individuals and three entities linked to the group[24]. These sanctions also affected Dmitry Utkin, the alleged military commander of the Wagner Group. The EU Council press release states that &#;the Wagner Group has recruited, trained and sent private military operatives to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, plunder natural resources and intimidate civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law.&#; At the same time, there were reports of the evacuation of Wagner&#;s mercenaries to Syria and Russia. Libya specialist, Jalel Harchaoui, believes that this is disinformation after a fairly quiet for Wagner in Libya but that it is not about to leave any time soon. Following a slow , the Russians in Libya are likely to turn up the heat, especially given the postponement of the Libyan presidential election to

 

[1]   Anna Borshchevskaya. &#;Russian Private Military Companies: Continuity and Evolution of the Model&#;, Foreign Policy Research Institute, December 18, , sprers.eu

[2]    Åse Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll, &#;Russian Use of Private Military and Security Companies &#; the implications for European and Norwegian Security&#;, FFI Rapport 18/, CR Michelsens Institutt. September 11, , sprers.eu

[3]New America, &#;Tracing Wagner&#;s Roots&#;, sprers.eu

[4]     Clifford J Levy and Thom Shanker. &#;In Rare Split, Two Leaders in Russia Differ on Libya&#;, New York Times, March 21, , sprers.eu

[5]     Maria Tsvetkova, &#;Exclusive: Russian private security firm says it had armed men in east Libya&#;, Reuters, Aerospace and Defense, March 10, , sprers.eu

[6]Radio Svoboda. March 7,, sprers.eu

[7]    Amy Mackinnon and Jack Detsch, &#;Pentagon Says UAE Possibly Funding Russia&#;s Shadowy Mercenaries in Libya&#;, FP, November 30, , sprers.eu

[8]    Liliya Yapporova, &#;A small price to pay for Tripoli Between 10 and 35 Russian mercenaries have been killed in the Libyan Civil War. We identified several of them&#;, Meduza, October 2, , sprers.eu

[9]    Jason Pack and Matthew Sinkez, &#;Khalifa Haftar&#;s Miscalculated Attack on Tripoli Will Cost Him Dearly&#;, FP, April 10, , sprers.eu

[10] CSIS, Twitter, July 1, , sprers.eu

[11]Meduza, &#;As Meduza found out, recruiters are gathering groups of mercenaries in Russia for a &#;business trip to Donbass&#;. What they will do there is unknown&#;, December 22, , sprers.eu

[12]United States Africa Command, New evidence of Russian aircraft active in Libyan airspace&#;, Stuttgart, Germany, Jun 18, , sprers.eu

[13] Denis Korotkov, &#;Our pround Ural does not surrender to the enemy&#;, Novayagazeta, July 11, , sprers.eu

[14] Christiaan Durrant, &#;Tracking Arms Transfers By the UAE, Russia, Jordan and Egypt to The Libyan National Army Since &#;, Oryx, March 23, , sprers.eu

[15] Amnesty, &#;Retaliatory attacks against civilians must be investigated and investigated and stopped&#;, Amnesty, June 5, , sprers.eu

[16]US Department of the Treasury, November 25, , sprers.eu

[17] Mourad Teyeb, Twitter, May 20, , sprers.eu

[18] Frederic Bobin, &#;Death of Idriss Deby: southern Libya, troubling rear base for Chadian rebels&#; Le Monde, April 22, , sprers.eu

[19] Anchal Vohra, &#;It&#;s Syrian vs. Syrian in Libya&#;, FP, May 5, , sprers.eu

[20] Planeta, &#;Project: Chef and Cook Investigation into how Russia is involved in the civil war in Libya&#;, Planeta, 09/12//News, sprers.eu

[21] Jared Malsin and Thomas Grove, &#;Researcher or Spy? Maxim Shugaley Saga Points to How Russia Now Builds Influence Abroad&#;, Wall Street Journal, Oct.5, , sprers.eu

[22] Shelby Grossman, Daniel Bush, Renee DiResta, &#;Evidence of Russa-Linked Influence Operations i Africa&#;, Stanford University, Internet Observatory, White Paper, published 29 October, , sprers.eu

[23] Michael Weiss and Pierre Vaux, &#;Russia&#;s Wagner Mercenaries Have Moved into Libya. Good Luck With That&#;, Daily Beast, Sep. 28, , sprers.eu

[24]   Hans Von Der Burchard, &#;EU slaps sanctions on Russian Mercenary Group Wagner&#;, Politico, December 13, , sprers.eu

 

The content of this text does not necessarily reflect the position of RLS

The lack of a sound legislative framework in Russia has not posed an obstacle to the development of private military companies (PMCs), which have enjoyed a de facto presence in key conflict areas in the world for almost a decade.

For example, Antiterror-Orel (Anti-Terror Eagle, in English), which was set up by former Vnukovo Airlines employee Sergei Isakov under the auspices of Suleyman Kerimov, has been undertaking non-military operations in Iraq to protect facilities and escort cargo since

Moreover, the low competitiveness of Russian PMCs registered offshore is evidence of their narrow set of functions and, by international standards, minimal employee wages. Russian companies offer standard security services, while the largest players in the market of private military services have long since switched to multi-specialization, in which consulting and specialized training occupy key niches.

For instance, U.S.-based Academi (formerly Blackwater) focuses on training programs for U.S. military personnel, offering courses in shooting, fighting, and extreme driving at its own training base. Its main customer is the U.S. government.

PMCs in Israel, meanwhile, have secured a strong foothold in the consulting industry and, in particular, the alignment of security and intelligence systems. British PMCs specialize in risk management, logistics, and protection of financial infrastructure.

Thus, the focus of "military services" has now shifted to the developing word. It is common practice to subcontract security and escort services to smaller companies in high-risk areas, usually in unstable countries.

Even if they acquire legal status, Russian PMCs are unlikely to be successful in the market, which is currently monopolized by the U.K. and the United States. At present, Russian PMCs are simply unable to compete in the hi-tech industries, reducing their role to that of mere mercenary.

Moreover, Russia is not currently engaged in military operations abroad and does not need "rearguard" reinforcements in the form of private paramilitary structures.

The government's decision to farm out PMCs to existing businesses clearly shows that it is more interested in two other types of commercial military structures: corporate and ethnic quasi-armies.

The former are represented by the security services of industrial companies that operate in hot spots. They already count more "security" employees than the FSB, and, in countries where Russian corporations own facilities, they essentially function in extraterritorial mode.

The legalization of military security enterprises would allow such corporations to use outsourcing in situations that require personnel with specific skills: for example, to counter attacks by pirates.

Whereas special training of corporate security services may not be commercially justified in this instance, PMCs with a niche profile could cope with the task quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, PMCs would be authorized to build up existing security capacity.

However, in addition to corporate security services that enjoy broad autonomy in overseas operations, a commercial quasi-army could also be deployed inside Russia itself. Its scope could include security in border areas in remote regions experiencing pressure from immigration; Russia's Far East is a prime example of such a region.

Still, the commercial and tactical benefits of setting up PMCs do not alter the fact that the gradual privatization and transformation of security into an "external" service – even inside the country – is a kind of ticking time bomb. In essence, it blurs the right to commit violence, over which the state has a monopoly.

The legalization of PMCs will go hand-in-hand with an increase in illicit arms trafficking. In the future, PMCs could become independent domestic players, free to side with any of the "centers of power" in existence at the time. In fact, the situation may even stimulate another stage of neo-feudalism in Russia. 

Nadezhda Sokolva is an expert at the Governance and Problem Analysis Center.

First published in Russian in sprers.eu

Antiterror - orel.ru - something is

The lack of a sound legislative framework in Russia has not posed an obstacle to the development of private military companies (PMCs), which have enjoyed a de facto presence in key conflict areas in the world for almost a decade.

For example, Antiterror-Orel (Anti-Terror Eagle, in English), which was set up by former Vnukovo Airlines employee Sergei Isakov under the auspices of Suleyman Kerimov, has been undertaking non-military operations in Iraq to protect facilities and escort cargo since

Moreover, the low competitiveness of Russian PMCs registered offshore is evidence of their narrow set of functions and, by international standards, minimal employee wages. Russian companies offer standard security services, while the largest players in the market of private military services have long since switched to multi-specialization, in which consulting and specialized training occupy key niches.

For instance, U.S.-based Academi (formerly Blackwater) focuses on training programs for U.S. military personnel, offering courses in shooting, fighting, and extreme driving at its own training base. Its main customer is the U.S. government.

PMCs in Israel, meanwhile, have secured a strong foothold in the consulting industry and, in particular, the alignment of security and intelligence systems. British PMCs specialize in risk management, logistics, and protection of financial infrastructure.

Thus, the focus of "military services" has now shifted to the developing word. It is common practice to subcontract security and escort services to smaller companies in high-risk areas, usually in unstable countries.

Even if they acquire legal status, Russian PMCs are unlikely to be successful in the market, which is currently monopolized by the U.K. and the United States. At present, Russian PMCs are simply unable to compete in the hi-tech industries, reducing their role to that of mere mercenary.

Moreover, Russia is not currently engaged in military operations abroad and does not need "rearguard" reinforcements in the form of private paramilitary structures.

The government's decision to farm out PMCs to existing businesses clearly shows that it is more interested in two other types of commercial military structures: corporate and ethnic quasi-armies.

The former are represented by the security services of industrial companies that operate in hot spots. They already count more "security" employees than the FSB, and, in countries where Russian corporations own facilities, they essentially function in extraterritorial mode.

The legalization of military security enterprises would allow such corporations to use outsourcing in situations that require personnel with specific skills: for example, to counter attacks by pirates.

Whereas special training of corporate security services may not be commercially justified in this instance, PMCs with a niche profile could cope with the task quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, PMCs would be authorized to build up existing security capacity.

However, in addition to corporate security services that enjoy broad autonomy in overseas operations, a commercial quasi-army could also be deployed inside Russia itself. Its scope could include security in border areas in remote regions experiencing pressure from immigration; Russia's Far East is a prime example of such a region.

Still, the commercial and tactical benefits of setting up PMCs do not alter the fact that the gradual privatization and transformation of security into an "external" service – even inside the country – is a kind of ticking time bomb. In essence, it blurs the right to commit violence, over which the state has a monopoly.

The legalization of PMCs will go hand-in-hand with an increase in illicit arms trafficking. In the future, PMCs could become independent domestic players, free to side with any of the "centers of power" in existence at the time. In fact, the situation may even stimulate another stage of neo-feudalism in Russia. 

Nadezhda Sokolva is an expert at the Governance and Problem Analysis Center.

First published in Russian in sprers.eu

Center for Strategic & International Studies

September 21,

This article is part of the CSIS executive education program Understanding the Russian Military Today.

The Russian private military company Wagner Group may appear to be a conventional business company. However, its management and operations are deeply intertwined with the Russian military and intelligence community. The Russian government has found Wagner and other private military companies to be useful as a way to extend its influence overseas without the visibility and intrusiveness of state military forces. As a result, Wagner should be considered a proxy organization of the Russian state rather than a private company selling services on the open market.1

Historical and legal background of private military companies in Russia

The post-Cold War era brought a renaissance of private security companies (PSCs) and private military companies (PMCs). Both state and non-state actors have frequently relied on their services, as these companies are more flexible, cheaper, less accountable, and often a lot more capable than regular militaries. Conflicts of the 21st century, particularly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saw PMCs getting involved on all levels, from providing logistical support to high-intensity operations.

Post-Soviet Russia followed the trend of privatization of state violence relatively late, mostly due to the internal resistance of the armed forces, as well as to economic hardships. While there are thousands of private security companies operating in the country, guarding infrastructure and providing VIP-protection services, private military companies still can not be established legally on the territory of the Russian Federation. Although certain legal loopholes, to be explained later, made it possible for a few companies resembling Western PMCs to operate in the s, Russian private military companies gained worldwide attention only in the s, as a result of their participation in the wars in Syria and Ukraine.

Russia builds on the Soviet Union’s long history of operating proxy forces abroad. For example, the so-called Soviet Volunteer Group was an air force detachment deployed to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War in Nominally, all the pilots and technicians were volunteers, and Moscow officially denied any connection to them; in fact, they belonged to the Soviet Air Force. A few years later, during the Winter War against Finland, the Soviet Union used the puppet government of pro-Moscow Finnish politician, Otto Wille Kuusinen, as a cover for its attack on Finland. The ,plus strong attacking force nominally belonged to the Kuusinen-government; however, this cover was so weak that Moscow abandoned it before the end of the war.

In the Cold War era, the Soviet Union sent thousands of military specialists under the cover of “advisors” to many conflicts worldwide, primarily the Middle East. Soviet advisors played an important role in modernizing the armed forces of Syria, Egypt, Libya, and a number of other states. In the s, Russian “volunteers” participated in the separatist conflicts of Moldova and Georgia, while the Russian state officially denied its involvement in the conflicts and labelled them civil wars.

More recently, Russian military scholars have closely studied how the United States and its allies employed PSCs and PMCs in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Russia had direct, though sporadic, contacts with Western PSCs in Afghanistan. The arms trafficking network of Viktor Bout occasionally even cooperated with several PSCs while it provided logistical services to the U.S. forces in Iraq.

Private military companies as tools of influence

The Kremlin has developed its own view of PMCs. Instead of approaching the question from the budgetary perspective—namely that PMCs are more flexible and cheaper than the regular military—Russia perceives them mainly as political-military tools of state influence, which can be employed under the cover of plausible deniability. As pointed out by Anna Borshchevskaya, in several special operations units of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) were subordinated directly to Chief of Staff Nikolay Makarov. Though there is no direct evidence, these units were probably intended to become the personnel source for private military companies to be set up in the future. A year later, Makarov publicly spoke about the need to use private military companies “for delicate missions abroad.” The logic prevailed: in April , when then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was asked in the Russian Duma about whether he supported the idea of creating a network of Russian private military companies, he replied positively and emphasized that PMCs could be tools of influence abroad, allowing the realization of national interests without the direct involvement of the state. As examples, he noted that such companies could provide protection of important facilities, as well as training for foreign military personnel abroad. Plausible deniability played a key role in Russia’s considerations about setting up private military companies, based also on the rich historical experiences Moscow has.

Another motivation for using PMCs is that it permits the Russian state to hide personnel losses from the Russian public. As these formations are formally private companies, their losses do not count in the official Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reports of how many servicemen have died or been injured. Thus, Russian MoD reports about the lost voennosluzhashchie (servicemembers) never include losses suffered by Russian private military companies operating in the same operational theater. The same logic allows Russia to deny the involvement of its proxies in the conflicts, as PMC contractors do not count as voennosluzhashchie. This is significant because Russian PMC operatives often fight in the front lines and attack difficult positions, and so their losses are much higher than those of the regular military.

The legal background

The Russian constitution specifically stipulates that all matters of security and defense belong solely to the state. Consequently, the establishment of private military companies is illegal in Russia, despite repeated efforts of certain powerful groups to change that. Pro-legalization arguments mostly center around the wide international practice of using PMCs, which would justify Russia doing the same. According to news reports, however, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other security agencies are strongly against lifting this ban.

However, there are a number of important loopholes in the Russian legislative system. While individuals are not allowed to serve as mercenaries, per the Russian Criminal Code, state-run enterprises are permitted to have private armed forces and security foundations. Combined with a usually dense de facto network of subcontractors, this allows Russian citizens to work for private military companies despite the nominal ban. Another workaround is to register companies abroad, which allows Russian authorities to ignore the operations of the “foreign” PMC. As Candace Rondeaux argues, the likely motivation of the Russian state to not push for the full legalization of private military companies is that this legal opacity adds to the overall ambiguity surrounding these entities; thus it increases the state’s freedom of maneuver in using them.

In practice, the legal environment is so permissive that most Russian private military companies prefer to recruit exclusively Russian citizens. Meanwhile, the formal ban on serving as a mercenary provides the Russian state with strong legal leverage over PMC operatives, ensuring their overall compliance with the state’s preferences.

Wagner Group is far from being the sole Russian private military company. Anna Maria Dyner lists several other Russian private military companies that have operated abroad, such as the E.N.O.T. Corporation in Syria and the Feraks group in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as the Antiterror-Orel Group and many others.

Direct predecessor of the Wagner Group: the Slavonic Corps

In line with the restrictive legal environment and the logic of plausible deniability, the so-called Slavonic Corps, a private military company, was set up in Hong Kong in by two employees of a conventional Russian PSC: the Moran Security Group. According to a Norwegian study published in , however, it was in fact the Syrian government that contracted the Moran Security Group to assist Syrian government forces in fighting the Islamic State. As Moran itself was not up to the task, even though it had been operating in Syria already for at least a year, the decision was taken to set up a new entity; this became the Slavonic Corps.

Operatives of the Slavonic Corps deployed to Syria in Their mission was to assist Syrian forces in re-capturing oil facilities from Islamic State militants. However, several coordination and logistical problems arose. The key problem was that the Slavonic Corps relied on the Syrian government for logistics, but instead of the promised modern weapons, it received outdated weaponry in insufficient numbers. Its first combat mission in Syria ended with a spectacular defeat near Deir al-Zour. Survivors were transported back to Russia, and the company was disbanded.

The Wagner Group and Its Connections to the Russian State

The private military company Wagner Group appeared shortly after the Slavonic Corps ceased to exist. While Wagner is frequently referred to as a private company connected to the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, there are several factors indicating that the entity is closely linked to the Russian state.

An important detail is that Wagner Group is not registered either in Russia or anywhere else— de jure, the company does not exist. In line with the logic of ambiguity described above, the Russian state not only tolerates but, in many cases, actively supports its actions.

The career of Dmitry Utkin

Dmitry Utkin is the founder of the Wagner Group. A veteran of both Chechen wars, Utkin served in the GRU until , after which he commanded a Spetsnaz unit, reaching the rank of a lieutenant colonel. In , he quit the service and joined the Moran Security Group, in whose ranks he participated in the Slavonic Corps’ above-mentioned, failed operation in Syria. In , he quit Moran and established the Wagner Group. The company was named after his old callsign “Vagner.” It cannot be verified whether Utkin initiated the establishment of Wagner Group or was only a front man for someone else.

Operatives of the Wagner Group, as well as Utkin himself, participated in the Russian operations in Ukraine in During the period from to , Ukrainian signals intelligence intercepted three phone conversations of Utkin reporting to GRU Colonel Oleg Ivannikov, as well as to Major General Evgeny Nikiforov, chief of staff of Russia’s 58th Army. These conversations indicated that Utkin was subordinated both to the GRU and to the Russian military command. Another indicator of Utkin’s very close connection to the Russian state is that he was photographed at a Kremlin reception held on December 9, , where he was decorated with the Order for Courage, allegedly for his services in Ukraine.

Shared base with the GRU

The main base of the Wagner Group is located in a town called Molkino, in Russia’s Krasnodar district. What makes this facility highly unusual is that it is operated jointly by the 10th Separate Special Purpose Brigade of Russia’s GRU and the Wagner Group. After passing the first checkpoint guarded by GRU soldiers, if one drives left, they will come to the GRU facility, while the road on the right leads to the Wagner barracks. An investigative report, published in the Russian journal Znak in March , revealed that despite the fiasco at Deir ez-Zor, the base was constantly expanded and new buildings were being built.

It is highly unusual for any private company to share a base with an elite, special operations military unit, and it is particularly odd that GRU personnel guard the road leading to the barracks of a PMC. The fact that Molkino base operates the way it does implies that relations between the two organizations are indeed cordial.

Reliance on Russian military infrastructure

There have been several documented occasions where Wagner operatives used transport infrastructure related to Russia’s Ministry of Defense. When Wagner operatives were deployed to Venezuela to assist President Nicolas Maduro, they arrived onboard Russian Air Force transport aircrafts, an Ilyushin IlM and an Antonov An In Libya, Russian military Ilyushin Il cargo aircrafts supply Wagner operatives fighting on the ground. Wagner personnel regularly fly in and out of Syria on military transport aircraft.

And transport is not the only sector where it can be documented that Wagner is relying on Russian military infrastructure. Multiple investigative reports confirm that operatives of Wagner Group are treated and rehabilitated in Russian military hospitals. For example, after the February defeat at Deir ez-Zor, the wounded survivors were evacuated by Russian military medical aircraft to the military hospitals in Rostov and Moscow. This detail indicates that Wagner is connected so closely to Russian military structures that their operatives are entitled to receive specialized military health care—a benefit unlikely to be received by any normal private company.

GRU-issued passports

According to reports of the Ukrainian security service (the SBU), verified by Bellingcat’s investigative reporting, Wagner operatives often use passports issued by a special passport desk in Moscow: Central Migration Office Unit This unit issues passports almost exclusively to people linked to Russia’s Ministry of Defense. It was the same Unit that issued the passports on the fake identities of the two perpetrators of the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal. Moreover, the documented passports of Wagner operatives were issued with sequential numbers, implying they were given out in groups, in an organized way. As the journalists of Bellingcat observed, this indicates that the Russian state not only tolerates but actively supports the operations of Wagner contractors abroad.

Presidential-level intervention for the sake of the Wagner Group

The last weeks of the presidential election campaign in Belarus brought an unexpected development: on July 29th, Belarusian authorities arrested 33 Russian citizens who allegedly belonged to the Wagner Group. While Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko used the story of the arrested Wagner operatives for his election campaign, accusing them of planning to interfere with the elections, independent sources revealed that, in fact, the Wagner Group has been using Belarus regularly as a transit country to various operational theaters; thus their presence on Belarusian territory was by no means extraordinary.

On July 31st, Russian President Vladimir Putin specially convened a meeting of the Russian National Security Council to discuss the issue. Thereafter, Putin raised the matter at leasttwice during his bilateral phone conversations with Lukashenko. Not surprisingly, the arrested Russian Wagner operatives were released shortly after the Belarusian elections were over, without any charges. The fact that the arrest of Wagner operatives made Putin urgently convene a special meeting of the National Security Council and that he discussed the issue directly with Lukashenko indicates that the fate of the arrested Wagner operatives was of extremely high importance to the Kremlin—which would be unlikely had Wagner not been closely connected to the Russian state.

Conclusion

Wagner is closely, often directly, connected to the Russian state. There is evidence indicating that the Wagner Group was subordinated to the Russian military in Ukraine. Wagner extensively relies on Russian military infrastructure, from using a shared base to being transported by Russian military aircraft to using military health care services. The Russian state is also documented supporting the Wagner Group with passports and, as implied by the recent events in Belarus, even by presidential-level political intervention.

Considering these factors, the transatlantic scholarly discourse about the Wagner Group should change. Instead of using the Russian narrative, according to which Wagner is a private military company, Wagner should be viewed as a classic proxy organization and handled accordingly. In this context, the fact that Wagner intends to appear as a private military company should be considered of limited relevance.

András Rácz is Senior Research Fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) operating in Berlin, Germany. The views expressed here are solely of his own, and do not represent the official position of CSIS, of any other institution, or state.

Background research for the present study has been conducted with the support of the research grant No. , titled 'Tradition and Flexibility in Russia’s Security and Defense Policy', provided by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary.

CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s). 

1An important methodological particularity is that this analysis concentrates solely on the direct connections between the Wagner Group and the Russian state. Hence, questions of oligarchic interests occasionally overlapping with Russian state priorities, which may direct Wagner’s operations in various parts of the world, are outside the focus of the present study.

Russia’s Private Military Contractors:
Cause for Worry?1

The World In Which We Live

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CRT0JM

Russian servicemen, dressed in historical uniforms, take part in a military parade rehearsal in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral at Red Square in central Moscow, 6 November

by Sergey Sukhankin and Alla Hurska

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Dr. Sergey Sukhankin is a Research Fellow in the Jamestown Foundation, and an Advisor with Gulf State Analytics, both located in Washington, D.C. He also teaches at the MacEwan School of Business in Edmonton. Sergey has consulted with various high-profile bodies and agencies, including the DIA (Washington), CSIS and the DND (Ottawa), and the European Parliament in Brussels.

Alla Hurska is an Associate Fellow with the International Centre for Policy Studies (Kyiv), and an Analyst in the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, and she is pursuing her Masters degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Her areas of interest include Russian and Chinese policies in the Arctic region, non-linear forms of warfare, disinformation, Ukrainian foreign and security policy, and the geopolitics of oil.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CP1YF8

Russian soldiers, on armoured vehicles, patrol a street in Aleppo, Syria, 2 February

Introduction

Two major geopolitical shifts – the Syrian civil war and the Ukrainian conflict – drew attention of the global academic and policy-related community to the issue of Russia’s private military companies (PMCs) and the so-called Wagner Group, which has become the living symbol of Russia’s covert use of ‘shady’ militarized groups in a powerplay against the west and its allies as well as securing Russia’s geo-economic/strategic interests abroad.

Although they are effective as a tool against weaker opponents, we argue that Russian PMCs should not be viewed as a strategic element in Russia’s military toolkit. Indeed, they are effective only when paired with Russia’s regular armed forces. We contend that PMCs are unlikely to be used against NATO members directly. Nevertheless, Russia will continue employing these forces in zones of instability as a means to engage the West in non-linear and asymmetric fashion.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2D0T32D

Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen march near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, 5 March

Russian PMCs throughout History

Russia’s reliance upon non-state actors dates back to the second half of the 16th Century.2 In general, in Tsarist Russia, militarized irregular formations, primarily Cossacks, were employed by the state for various (para)military tasks, including ensuring physical safety of the Russian monarch and, using contemporary parlance, confronting “hybrid threats.”3 Russian irregulars played a visible role in all major regional conflicts waged by the Tsarist regime, frequently acting as proto-special forces that were partly tasked with protection of the Russian national border in the areas populated by the non-Russian peoples. In the course of the Russian Civil War (–), both sides of the conflict also actively relied upon and collaborated with various forms of irregular formations and armed groups.4

During the Soviet period (–), the state primarily used irregulars in pursuit of its geopolitical objectives. Specifically, in its confrontation with the western powers in the Third World, that is, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Soviets would use “military instructors” – active military5 sent to ‘friendly countries’ to assist local armed forces in training, yet on many occasions directly participating in combat.6 The Soviet state acted as both contractor and provider of these services, whereas pecuniary motives were almost completely overshadowed by ideological calculations.7 However, in the s, this trend experienced a certain transformation: in Libya, the Soviet military instructors and advisors started to be used by the government of Muamar Gaddafi in his adventurous “border wars.”8 Upon the dissolution of the USSR, many of them chose to remain in Libya and serve Gaddafi,9 de-facto becoming the first Russian private military contractors in Africa.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in dealt a severe blow to state institutions and Russian society. An abrupt and ill-planned transition to a market economy destroyed or badly damaged key governmental structures. Two of the main ‘victims’ were the security services and the armed forces. Chronically underfinanced and occasionally humiliated by the new regime,10 this branch of the Russian state started to lose some of its most qualified cadre to various ‘business’ (de-facto semi-criminal) structures.11 Thus, the roots of Russia’s current PMCs industry should be acknowledged within this historical epoch (–). However, it would not be adequate to refer to a single source. Instead, we propose to take a look at the following three (intertwined) groups.

ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo/BPBDBC

Russian servicemen keep position in the administrative border between Daghestan in Chechnya, 25 May

The first group consists of ‘volunteers’ who had participated in conflicts throughout the post-communist period in places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Transnistria, Tajikistan, Chechnya, and the Balkans (Bosnia).12 As noted by a distinguished Russian military officer, Igor Girkin/Strelkov, a participant in hostilities in Bosnia himself,13 many “volunteers” were drawn to these “gray zones” for “résumé building”: to later join either Western PMCs or the private security structures.14

A second set of groups comprises ‘private armies’ organized in the s as a result of an expanding Russian criminal web.15 To gain military experience, their members took part in some regional conflicts, including Chechnya, where they fought “on both sides of the barricades.”16 Within this sub-group, special attention should be allocated to Roman Tsepov, the owner of a security firm named “Baltik-Eskort” (). The firm – which began as an idea of Viktor Zolotov, the current Director of the National Guard of Russia and a member of the Security Council – was tightly connected to some of Russia’s most powerful organized criminal groups (the Tambov Gang), and rendered security services to the family of (then) St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and also for his deputy at the time, Vladimir Putin.17 Later, “private armies” were disbanded with some of its members and leaders being either killed or moved to private security companies (PSCs).

ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo/2A8CPM3

Viktor Zolotov, head of the Russian Federal National Guard Service, makes remarks at the unveiling of a monument to Russian National Guard officers killed in the line of duty at Pobedy Square, Ryazan, Russia, 8 November

A third group consists indeed of those PSCs. The most well-known players on the Russian market were Antiterror-Orel, Antiterror, Redut-Antiterror.18 Particular attention should be paid to the Moran Security Group (founded in ) – a spin-off of the Antiterror PSC. Unlike similar groups, Moran consisted of a “consortium” of smaller companies, and even had a ‘marine’ branch, which owned a number of vessels, Ratibor (ESU), Maagen (E5U), Anchor 1 (E5U) and Deo Juvante (E5U). The company offered a much broader set of services than the ‘standard packages,’ with some Russian sources even claiming: “…one of the company’s clients was Bashar al-Assad.”19 In effect, there is every reason to believe that the origins of the Wagner group were somehow related to Moran: not only did it stand behind the Slavonic Corps Limited PMC, but also ties of some of the Moran members – including Alexander Kuznetsov20 – with Wagner have also been proven.

Russia vs. the World: Differences in Practices

As Norwegian research specialists in Russian military and security politics Åse Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll indicate, the range of services typically provided by the Western private military security companies (PMSCs) consists of “protective security services, military support, and state building services” and “[Western companies] will generally shy away from services that will associate them with mercenaries.”21 Indeed, some tragic occurrences that have happened in the past primarily either resulted from the necessity of self-defence, or were a result of tragic mistakes. One of them was the infamous “Baghdad Massacre” (16 September ) that involved Blackwater,22 when members of this PMSC killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square while escorting a U.S. embassy convoy. Of note, Western PMSCs are completely legal.

For their part, Russian PMCs, such as the Wagner Group, were created for diametrically- opposed reasons, and they operate in line with a different logic. Russian PMCs, de-jure non-existent and prohibited by the Russian Penal Code,23 should be viewed as a part of “Active Measures ”24: (a) a tool of Russia’s covert power politics in strategically important areas; and (b) “power economy” (silovaja ekonomika), “…a state-controlled system of coercion (including a reliance on limited-scale military conflicts, if necessary) aimed at realizing economic goals.” Therefore, one crucial detail should be noted: (il)legal status of Russian PMCs is not a coincidence – it is a reflection of their true purpose. At the same time, acts of violence accompanying activities of Russian PMCs are not coincidental/defensive. As rightfully noted by Jānis Bērziņš, “Russians, PMCs must be understood as mercenaries in the worst sense of the word,” whose main objective is to avoid the direct involvement of Russian armed forces.26

What is the Wagner Group?

Among Russian PMCs, the Wagner Group is the most prominent. Its emergence was by no means spontaneous. The Russian General Staff first entertained the necessity to organize PMCs for various “delicate missions abroad” as early as 27 Yet, it took no concrete steps in this direction. In , Boris Chikin, one of the founders of the Moran PMC, lamented that the global PMC market was being divided between Western players and the lack of opportunities for Russian companies. In effect, a predecessor of the Wagner Group, the Slavonic Corps Limited (), was a PMC created by members of the Moran Group and sent to Syria to fight on the side of al-Assad. It was destroyed near al-Sukhnah in eastern Syria.28 Apparently, Slavonic Corps Limited was a ‘trial run’ of a more ambitious and better-organized project. Incidentally, one of its leaders, Dmitry Utkin (a retired lieutenant colonel of the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff, the GU), would later become a commander of the Wagner Group in Ukraine and Syria, where, playing a key role in capturing Aleppo, he would later be decorated with the Order of Courage during a gala held in the Kremlin.29

ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo/DWGGG

Aleppo, Syria, during the Syrian civil war, 3 April

The Ukrainian crisis played a pivotal role in emergence and the rise of the Wagner Group, whose actual emergence dates to May , and the outbreak of armed conflict in the Ukrainian Southeast, where the group would take part in all major engagements (the Battle of Luhansk Airport, the Battle of Debaltseve), subversive/terrorist operations (the Il shoot-down; provocations in the rear of the Ukrainian armed forces; intelligence gathering), and ‘quelling’ of the (pseudo-) Cossacks and local strongmen acting as ‘cleaners’ (chistilshiki).30 While in Ukraine, the group practiced some of the tactics learned earlier in Syria and used by Islamic radicals, which, aside from operations in small and highly maneuvering groups, (commensurate with general principles of non-linear operations that include sabotage, guerrilla/partisan warfare, rapid penetration of the frontline and operations in the enemy’s rear), also included the employment of armoured jeeps/vehicles when attacking the enemy formations.31 The “Ukrainian chapter” of Wagner’s history had a crucial meaning, becoming a training polygon and a form of ‘marketing tool,’ advertising the group and its capabilities to third parties.

Ukraine accordingly became a springboard for the group towards much more economically lucrative missions in Syria. Still, operations in Ukraine also played an essential role in the transformation of the entity in terms of its composition, primarily reflected in the decreasing quality of its personnel. Between and , according to various testimonies, the core of the group was indeed predominantly composed of highly skilled professionals with vast ‘hands-on’ experience gained in various regional conflicts. During this period, functions performed by Wagner could be, at some level, compared to tasks vested upon the Russian Special Operations Forces – a flexible, multi-functional force combining qualities of Spetsnaz and the armed forces.32 However, with a swelling in the rank-and-file of the PMC, the entrance requirements and training standards plummeted.33 Between and , the tasks performed in Syria by the group drifted away from military operations toward forceful seizure (“otzhim” in Russian slang) of oil- and gas-fields/facilities from the anti-al-Assad forces. Further, there is every reason to believe that, at least in part, the group started acting increasingly in concert with pro-Assad forces (uncoordinated, highly diverse and demonstrating not very good war-fighting qualities) and its coordination with the Russian side started to loosen. This transformation increased resentment from the side of Russian neo-conservative nationalists (such as Strelkov), who condemned the Wagner Group and the Russian government for betrayal of Russia’s national interests and of drifting away from Russia’s key mission (creation of the Novorossiya).34 Incidentally, one of such missions co-carried out by Wagner led to a debacle near Deir ez-Zor, where the group suffered its largest losses, due to the results of an aerial strike dealt by US forces.35

Hassan Blal/Alamy Stock Photo/PGGKXP

What remains of the Deir ez-Zor suspension bridge, 11 August

In discussing the Wagner Group in Syria, one should make two observations. First, a common inaccuracy is that in Syria, “… the Wagner Group is often used as elite infantry.”36 Although this assumption might be somewhat applicable to the “Ukrainian chapter” of the Wagner history, this argument does not apply to its experiences in Syria. Close analysis of operations carried out by Wagner in Syria suggest the group primarily performed the most arduous tasks in areas of maximum risk or danger. Alternatively, it served as an auxiliary force that assisted Russian regular armed forces – the SOF, on the ground, and the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) through coordination and terrain reconnaissance37 – to minimize casualties among Russian regular armed forces akin to Afghanistan and both Chechen wars. Indeed, according to various estimates, the official number of Russian contract soldiers (kontraktniki),38 who were killed in Syria in military engagements was significantly lower than any other party involved. This fact, even though much praised by the Russian military and pro-Kremlin information outlets, failed to attribute some credit to the Russian PMCs that took part in the heaviest battles. Unlike Russian PMCs, elite forces are typically used in high-precision operations – which is clearly visible in the work of the Russian SOF in Syria – and do not typically participate in potentially highly costly frontal attacks.39 The Wagner Group, however, while in Syria, was used as shockwave troops, which normally consists of tasks vested upon elite special forces.

The second aspect is related to the Deir ez-Zor disaster suffered by the Wagner Group in early in Syria. According to some experts, the defeat of the Wagner Group near Deir ez-Zor might have resulted from an alleged disagreement in between Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the reported sponsor of the Wagner Group. Thus, the inaction of the Russian Defense Ministry that led to the Deir ez-Zor massacre might have been deliberately staged “…to sacrifice the lives of the veterans who work for Wagner, in order to send Prigozhin a message.”40 However, the physical eradication of experienced veterans and, perhaps more importantly, giving the United States a reason to claim victory makes little practical sense, especially in light of Russia’s growing involvement in Libya. In effect, thorough investigations have demonstrated that in this debacle the major losses were suffered by the pro-Assad and pro-Iranian forces. By contrast Wagner occupied a marginal part of the overall advancing forces, and was unlikely to be the leading/coordinating force.41 Following this logic, this means that the Russian MoD ‘punished’ not Wagner per se, but Russia’s regional allies. This argument is not plausible. Most likely, members of the Wagner Group fell prey to a combination of poor coordination and over-confidence that the US side would not use its military-technical capabilities to confront and to repel the attacker.42 Moreover, as argued by the reputable Russian journalist Petr Kozlov, the Syrian debacle may have had a serious impact upon the Russian ruling elite.43 Furthermore, the ‘punishment theory’ may be challenged by post developments, and by Russia’s increasing involvement in Libya. Specifically, Prigozhin was spotted during negotiations between Shoygu and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in November ,44 which resulted in the Wagner Group being sent to Libya to support Haftar’s Tripoli offensive, the Operation Flood of Dignity (April ).45 Another essential aspect is related to the issue of Russian military advisors (which combined legal advisors and members of the Wagner group) in the Central African Republic (CAR), who were deployed to the country in , as a part of technical-material cooperation between the CAR political regime and the Russian MoD.46 Neither episode could have been performed without the coordination of actions between leadership of the Wagner Group and the Russian MoD.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2DP7

A rebel fighter stands on a Russian-made Scud missile that was found in Junine, about 25 km southwest of Tripoli, 3 September The missile had been directed at the city of Tripoli.

The Wagner Group: Image and Reality

Between and , the Wagner Group has been spotted operating on three continents. In this regard, one important aspect should be mentioned: the growing discrepancy between the image of the group (primarily created by Russian and Western media, based upon the group’s operations in Ukraine and Syria), and its actual capabilities. This argument gains more relevance in the light of the operations carried out by Wagner in Libya with respect to the Operation Flood of Dignity47 and Mozambique. Specifically, despite the fact that Wagner fighters have been sent to Libya to support Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli,48 its results have fallen short of its declared objective. Furthermore, as reported by both Russian and Turkish sources, the Wagner Group suffered its largest losses in manpower since the Syrian debacle in early49 These losses have resulted in certain reputational damage. According to available information, following this failure, Russian mercenaries were withdrawn from the frontline zone,50 which might stem from a combination of factors.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CHNP6A

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Mozabique’s President Filipe Nyusi during a meeting in Moscow, 22 August

Yet another disappointment has befallen the group in the Sub-Saharan Africa, a region of growing importance to the Kremlin’s geo-political/economic calculations.51 Following the meeting between the President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi and Vladimir Putin in Moscow (22 August ) – when the African guest promised “lucrative contracts” and “ample opportunities” for the Russian businesses in the country52 – Russian mercenaries were reportedly deployed in the Cabo Delgado province (northern Mozambique) to help the government in its up-to-date unsuccessful fight against locally-operating Islamic radicals.53 According to both Russian and Western sources54 in pursuit of this contract in Mozambique, Wagner ‘outcompeted’ leading western PMSCs, primarily due to an advantageous pricing policy and to good relations with the local political leadership. However, the initial excitement was soon replaced by the sobering effect made by the first military encounters with the local rebels. Ambushed by the radicals, Wagner reportedly lost several fighters, with up to twenty Mozambique official military also being killed.55 According to some unverified sources, this episode prompted the withdrawal of Russian mercenaries from Cabo Delgado.56 Indeed, these experiences have shown some structural weaknesses showcased by the private military contractors, as well as the fact that this tool, even though effective at the tactical/operative level, is unlikely to gain a strategic role in Russia’s military thinking.57 The main reason behind this assumption boils down to the following: in its actions, the Russian side is delegating PMCs with certain functions – such as military operations that they are not designed to execute, and for which they have no appropriate resources. These functions are typically performed by the regular armed forces, such as the SOF, which is specifically designed for such tasks.

Beyond Wagner: Russian Irregulars and the Western Alliance

Reflecting upon the range of challenges faced by NATO due to Russia’s use of PMCs, one essential aspect should be recognized: as the most well-known and notorious entity of its kind, the Wagner Group is neither the root of the problem nor the main peril. As it was convincingly demonstrated in Deir ez-Zor, Libya58 and Mozambique,59 the actual military capabilities of the Wagner Group depend upon various conditions. One of them is the close cooperation with Russia’s regular armed forces, which secured its success in both Ukraine and Syria. Therefore, from a strictly military perspective, Russian PMCs should not be viewed as a supreme threat, yet those forces could act as ‘spoilers,’ distracting/disrupting actions of NATO/Western powers in zones of instability.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CX6REN

Another shot of armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, marching outside a Ukrainian military base outside the Crimean city of Simferopol, 10 March

Arguably, however, a much more serious peril emanates from ‘irregulars,’ –a broad array of forces that including PMCs, Cossacks, the Night Wolves,60 members of various military-patriotic organizations/societies, and ‘hacktivists,’–that could be used to provoke and destabilize situations. The main challenge stemming from activities of this group was, perhaps, best showcased during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Success of this operation in many ways was inseparable from actions of the irregulars that performed all the “groundwork,”61 by preparing the ‘turf’ for the “little green men”62 – regular armed forces, such as the SOF and the Spetsnaz.63 Some elements of the ‘Crimean scenario’ could consist of exercises by Russia in other venues or theatres. One such potential areas is the Balkans, where Russia has been using covert operations since the earlys through proxy forces, and/or Latvia and Lithuania. Incidentally, during the Zapad strategic military exercises (14–20 September), Moscow used both local forces and the Don Army Cossacks as an auxiliary force64 on the territory of Kaliningrad oblast, which co-hosted the event. Even though this risk does exist and should not be neglected, it appears highly unlikely that Moscow would use the ‘Crimean scenario’ in or against countries that hold NATO membership. After all, the current operative theatre of Russian PMCs/irregular forces is either confined by the ‘borders’ of the post-Soviet area, or it extends to places classified as “gray zones.” This, however, does not mean that the risk should be excluded completely: Russia is likely to continue testing NATO and its allies through a string of provocations as a means to tackle cohesion of the alliance and the resolve of its members.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CR9G25

Russian military vehicles on the move during the Zapad war games near the village of Volka, Belarus, 19 September

For this purpose, Moscow is already actively using irregulars&#;– primarily, the Night Wolves, Cossacks, various military-patriotic organizations, as well as ‘hacktivists,’ – to infiltrate, provoke, destabilize and stir up things in other regions/countries/places. Out of a large number of known examples, one must recall the role of Cossacks and PMC members, covered up by the Russian MFA, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in radicalizing the Serbian youth, which came to be known as the “Zlatibor affair” – an event that caused huge resonance in the country and required the personal involvement of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The incident revealed strong ties between the Russian MFA, Cossacks, the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs and members of some PMCs that had fought in the Donbass.65 Currently, with respect to the Balkans, Russia’s attention is diverted to Bosnia, Montenegro (where Russian agents already tried to carry out a military coup in ), and Serbia, which had refused to introduce any anti-Russian sanctions as a result of the unlawful annexation of Crimea. It is highly possible that even NATO/EU membership of the above-mentioned countries would not fully stop Moscow from using covert methods.

Rawf8/Alamy Stock Photo/2BNKFJB

NATO and EU flags waving on a blue-sky background.

The second concern is premised upon developments in Russia’s westernmost region, the Kaliningrad oblast. Specifically, Kaliningrad-based Cossacks are actively establishing ties, primarily via joint para-military exercises, with The Slavic Union (Braterstwo Słowian) and The Movement for the Sovereignty of the Polish People (Ruch Suwerennośći Narodu Polskiego) – pro-Russian and anti-NATO -Ukrainian platforms.66 The direct impact of these ties should not be overrated, and yet, the collateral damage is unpredictable and might become more pronounced in the future.

The third concern relates to the Arctic region, an area of Russia’s strategic interests and massive expectations.67 As the noted French historian, sociologist, and political scientist Marlene Laruelle opines, the Arctic occupies a special place in Russia’s economic, geopolitical and ideological calculations.68 Following the Ukrainian Crisis, Russia began intensifying its efforts towards (re)militarization of the region. Russia’s strategy is on many levels commensurate with an idea brought forth by a renowned Russian military expert, Vladislav Shuryghin “[I]n the Arctic region, you do not fight wars with armies and divisions.”69 Indeed, a closer look at Russia’s manoeuvres/exercises in the region show high role of small and highly maneuvering formations – elements that are presumably seen by Russia as the main operative force in case of a limited-scale escalation in the region. Aside from military-related aspects, Russia’s actions in the region generate interest for yet another reason: by using a mix between facts and provocations and information operations.70

Conclusion

The emergence of Russian PMCs on the Ukrainian Southeast in and their subsequent (re)appearance in Syria () created a huge wave of interest toward this phenomenon among Russian and international experts, scholars, journalists, and policy makers. The initial veneer of the omnipotence and invincibility of Russian private military contractors was challenged in (Syria) and (Libya and Mozambique). Based upon these examples, it would be adequate to presume that the actual military potential demonstrated by Russian PMCs do not allow to classify this tool as a strategic element within the Russian toolkit. And yet, its importance/capabilities should not be downplayed – under certain circumstances and against specific enemies/adversaries this tool could and will be very useful. That said, we believe that the main danger to the Western alliance and, in particular, its partners, emanates from ‘irregulars’ that could be employed in various (both military and non-military) missions, acting – in the case of a potential limited-scale military escalation or preceding events – as an auxiliary forces, which was demonstrated during the annexation of Crimea.

Therefore, we argue that in the short-to-mid-term prospect, main areas of employment of Russian irregular forces (including PMCs) will extend to the following three main areas. First, actual (para)military operations will likely be performed by Russian PMCs in resource-endowed and politically unstable countries in the Middle East, the Maghreb, the Sub-Saharan Africa and (potentially) South and Central America (Venezuela and Nicaragua) as well as countries of the post-Soviet space. The employment of these forces in/against EU/NATO member-states should not be expected in a short- and mid-term prospect. Second, provocations and ‘ground testing’ as a means to test the resolve of the Western alliance – an element whose spread will extend beyond the above-mentioned area, including the Balkans, the Arctic region, and the European Union. While the actual impact of these actions should not be overstated – since Russia is unlikely to use offensive potential of irregulars (including PMCs) against EU and NATO members – the Western alliance must be cautious, since some provocations (especially with respect to the Balkans and the three Baltic States) might take place. Third, information-psychological operations as an integral part of the war of the new generation (Network-centric warfare) – an element that was demonstrated during the Crimean operation.71 That said, to understand better and perhaps even re-consider their role, potential areas of employment of Russian irregular formations (including PMCs) and their coordination with Russian regular armed forces, it would be valuable to thoroughly analyze the history of the Ukrainian crisis, paying special attention to the interim between January and February

One final aspect should be highlighted. Dr. Christopher R. Spearin of the Canadian Forces College argues that one way to curtail the activities of Russian PMCs is for the United States to place them “…in a normatively defensive context in which utilization is transparent.”72 This scenario, as confirmed by Anthony Pfaff and Edward Mienie of the US Army War College,73 looks at the problem of Russian PMCs from a Western perspective. Based upon the analysis of operative principles employed by Russian PMCs, whose functions and de-facto activities drastically differ from Western PMSCs, legal measures are unlikely to have any impact upon Russian PMCs and other semi-state actors. Although activities of irregulars could be, to some and very limited extent, confronted by legal measures, PMCs could only be targeted by military measures. By inflicting substantial damage on these mercenary formations in ‘gray zones,’ two main results could be achieved. For one, the recruiting mechanism could be disrupted because the number of qualified recruits is likely to subside dramatically. For another, and most importantly, defeats of mercenaries could well repel third parties from hiring them in the future.

Notes

  1. “This Working Paper was funded by the Defence and Security Foresight Group which receives funding from the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program designed to facilitate collaboration and mobilize knowledge between the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, and academia and other experts on defence and security issues. Through its Targeted Engagement Grants, collaborative networks, scholarships, and expert briefings, MINDS works and collaborates with key partners to strengthen the foundation of evidence-based defence policy making. These partnerships drive innovation by encouraging new analyses of emerging global events, opportunities, and crises, while supporting a stronger defence and security dialogue with Canadians.”
  2. The most well known examples include the Livonian War ( – ), the Time of Troubles ( – ) and the colonization of Siberia ( – lates).
  3. Valery Gerasimov, “Po opytu Sirii: Gibridnaya voyna trebuyet vysokotekhnologichnogo oruzhiya i nauchnogo obosnovaniya”. Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kurier, no. 9, , at: sprers.eu; See also:  Frank Hoffman, “Hybrid Warfare and Challenges,” Joint Forces Quarterly, no. 52, , at: sprers.eu; Vladimir Rauta (): Towards a typology of non-state actors in ‘hybrid warfare’: proxy, auxiliary, surrogate and affiliated forces, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, DOI: /
  4. “Irregulyarnye voyska v Rossiyskoy imperii,” sprers.eu, Accessed 2 February , at: sprers.eu¸Ñ€Ñ€ÐµÐ³ÑƒÐ»ÑÑ€Ð½Ñ‹Ðµ-войска-в-российской-имп/.
  5. Igor Eliseev and Aleksey Tikhonov, “V teni piramid,” in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, â„– (), 30 September , at: sprers.eu
  6. Sergey Sukhankin, “The Russian State’s Use of Irregular Forces and Private Military Groups: From Ivan the Terrible to the Soviet Period,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 12 April , at: sprers.eu
  7. Lavrenov S.Y. Sovietskii Soyuz w lokalnikh voinah I konfliktakh. Artel, Moscow,
  8. “Border wars” were a series of conflicts between Libya and its neighbors, including Chad, Niger and Egypt that took place in the s–s. For more information, also see: sprers.euv, sprers.euev, Sovetskaya shkola Kaddafi: Kak I chemu nauchili armiyu Muammara Kaddafi sovetskie voyennye,  SUP Media sprers.eu: Internet-izdaniya, ,  at: sprers.eu
  9. Vladimir Voronov and Aleksandr Artemyev, “Sovetskaya shkola Kaddafi,” sprers.eu, 31 March ,  at: sprers.eu
  10. Aleksandra Turchaninova, “Veteran ‘Alfy’: Eltsyn nas nenavidel ilyubil…, ” available at: sprers.eu
  11. NCnews. “Sovershenno Dokumentalnoye Rassledovanije  sekretno-Spetssluzhby oligarhov.” sprers.eu, Projekt Sovershenno Sekretno, 10 February , at: sprers.eu?v=EUZorQLtIGU. See also Mark Galeotti. The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ).
  12. Sergey Sukhankin, “From ‘Volunteers’ to Quasi-PMCs: Retracing the Footprints of Russian Irregulars in the Yugoslav Wars and Post-Soviet Conflicts,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 25 June , at: sprers.eu
  13. Igor Strelkov, “Kontrudar,” sprers.eu, 6 January , at: sprers.eu
  14. Mark Galeotti, “Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia,” in The Guardian, 23 March , at: sprers.eu
  15. “Kratkaya istoriya chastnoy ochrany RF,” sprers.eu, 2 June , at:  sprers.eu?start=1.
  16. NCnews. “Sovershenno sekretno-Spetssluzhby oligarhov.” sprers.eu, 10 February , at: sprers.eu?v=EUZorQLtIGU.
  17. Charles Gurin, “ROMAN TSEPOV, R.I.P.,” The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 93, 27 September , at: sprers.eu
  18. Sergey Sukhankin, “From ‘Volunteers’ to Quasi-PMCs: Retracing the Footprints of Russian Irregulars in the Yugoslav Wars and Post-Soviet Conflicts,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 25 June , at:  sprers.eu
  19. Sergey Lyutykh, “Umru za Rodinu. Dorogo,” sprers.eu, February 1, , sprers.eu
  20. Denis Korotkov, “Brodyaga, Sedoy, Wagner i Ratibor okruzhyli prezidenta,” sprers.eu, 21 August , at: sprers.eu
  21. Ã…se Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll, “Russian Use of Private Military and Security Companies - the implications for European and Norwegian Security.” FFI Rapport no. 18/, CMI - Chr. Michelsen Institute, ,  at: sprers.eu
  22. Phil Stewart, “U.S. troops in Iraq will need immunity: U.S. chief,” Reuters, 2 August , at:  sprers.eu . 
  23. Sergey Sukhankin. “’A black cat in the dark room’: Russian Quasi-Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) – ‘Non-existent,’ but Deadly and Useful,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4, Autumn
  24. Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and Enduring Legacy of the KGB (New York: Public Affairs, ).
  25. Aleksandr Ageev, “Silovaya ekonomika I smena mirovogo gegemona,” Strategicheskie prioritety, No. 2 (6) (), pp. 27–  
  26. Jānis Bērziņš. The Russian Way of Warfare (pp. 17–21), in: Current Russian Military Affairs. Assessing and Countering Russian Strategy, Operational Planning, and Modernization. SSI, Current Russian Military Affairs, Conference Executive Summaries. John R. Deni, (ed.), July
  27. Irina Malkova, Anton Bayev, “Chastnaya armiya dlya presidenta: istoriya samogo delikatnogo porucheniya Yevgeniya Prigozhyna,” in The Bell, 29 January , at: sprers.eu
  28. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,”  in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 December , at: sprers.eu
  29. “Utkin Dmitrij Valerevich,” in Myrotvorets, 16 December , at: sprers.eu
  30. Sergey Sukhankin, “Unleashing the PMCs and Irregulars in Ukraine: Crimea and Donbas” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 3 September , at: sprers.eu.  
  31. “Intervyu rossiyskikh naemnikov Botvinyevykh: ‘Wagnera’ na Donbasse trenirovali nashy kadrovye voyennye iz ‘Vympela.’ Ryadovoy ‘Wagnera’ poluchal tysyach rubley,” sprers.eu, 18 May  , at: sprers.eu
    vagnera_na_donbasse_trenirovali_nashi_kadrovye_voennye_iz.
  32. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Special Operations Forces: Image Versus Substance,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 43, The Jamestown Foundation, 27 March , at: sprers.eu
  33. Denis Korotkov, “Oni srazhalis za Palmiru,” in sprers.eu, 29 March  , at: sprers.eu
  34. Igor Strelkov (Girkin), “’Chastniki’ Chast ,”in  sprers.eu, 14 July , at: sprers.eu
  35. While the accurate number is unknown, the most realistic number of Russian mercenaries killed should be seen closer to twenty men. For more information see: Christoph Reuter, “The Truth About the Russian Deaths in Syria,” in sprers.eu, 2 March , at: sprers.eu
  36. Gostev, A., and R. Coalson, “Russia’s Paramilitary Mercenaries Emerge from the Shadows.” RFE/sprers.eu, 16 December  , at: sprers.eu.
  37. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,”  in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 December , at: sprers.eu  
  38. Sarah Fainberg. Russian Spetsnaz, Contractors and Volunteers in the Syrian Conflict. No. , Ifri, December , at:sprers.eu
  39. Examples of Budyonnovsk and other follies committed by Russian armed forces during the First Chechen War should be attributed to the general state of disarray in the Russian army. For more information see: Yuri Demin. Bitva za Budennovsk. Spetsnaz Rossii. 31 May , at: sprers.eu
  40. Kimberly Marten, “Russia’s use of semi-state security forces: the case of the Wagner Group,” in Post-Soviet Affairs, , , , DOI: /X; Kimberly Marten, “The Puzzle of Russian Behavior in Deir Al-Zour.” in War on the Rocks, at: in sprers.eu
  41. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 December , at: sprers.eu
  42. Christoph Reuter, “The Truth about the Russian Deaths in Syria,” in sprers.eu, 2 March , at: sprers.eu
  43. Petr Kozlov, “Putin zamenil rabochie poezdki na vstrechu s generalami. Vozmozhno iz-za Sirii,” sprers.eu, 13 February , at: sprers.eu
  44. Irek Murtazin, “Na etoy kukhne chto-to gotovitsya,” in Novaya Gazeta, 9 November , at: sprers.eu
  45. Samer Al-Atrush, “Libya’s Prime Minister Says Russia Mercenaries Will Drag Out War,” in Bloomberg, 14 November  , at: sprers.eu
  46. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia’s hired guns in Africa,” sprers.eu, 12 November ,  at: sprers.eu
  47. “Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s strongest warlord, makes a push for Tripoli,” in The Economist,  5 April , at: sprers.eu
  48. Samer Al-Atrush and Stepan Kravchenko, “Putin-Linked Mercenaries Are Fighting on Libya’s Front Lines,” in Bloomberg, 25 September , at: sprers.eu
  49. Liliya Yapparova, “Oni sami tolkom ne znali, kuda edut,” in sprers.eu, 2 October , at: sprers.eu
  50. “Boytsy ChVK Wagnera pokinuli liniyu fronta v Livii,”  in sprers.eu, 11 January , at: sprers.eu
  51. Sergey Sukhankin, “The ‘Hybrid’ Role of Russian Mercenaries, PMCs and Irregulars in Moscow’s Scramble for Africa,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 10 January , at: sprers.eu James Sladden, Becca Wasser, Ben Connable, Sarah Grand-Clement. Russian Strategy in the Middle East. RAND Corporation, , at: sprers.eu
  52. Edvard Chesnokov, “President Mozambika: Rossiya spisala 90% nashego dolga, my tsenim takih partnerov,” in sprers.eu, 21 August , at: sprers.eu
  53. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia Prepares a Foothold in Mozambique: Risks and Opportunities,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 15 October  , at: sprers.eu
  54. Pjotr Sauer, “In Push for Africa, Russia's Wagner Mercenaries Are 'Out of Their Depth' in Mozambique,” in The Moscow Times, 19 November , at: sprers.eu
  55. “Insurgentes Emboscam e Matam 20 Membros das FDS e cinco russos,” in Carta de Mocambique, 29 October  , at: sprers.eu
  56. “Nayemniki ChVK ‘Wagner’ otstupili iz Kabo-Delgado,” in sprers.eu, 25 November , at: sprers.eu
  57. Sergey Sukhankin, “Continuation of Policy by Other Means: Russian Private Military Contractors in the Libyan Civil War,” in Terrorism Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 3, The Jamestown Foundation, 7 February , at: sprers.eu
  58. Sergey Sukhankin, “Mercenaries in the Desert: The Kremlin’s Libya Game,” in Fair Observer, 16 October , at: sprers.eu
  59. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Mercenaries Pour Into Africa and Suffer More Losses (Part One),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 6, The Jamestown Foundation, 21 January , at: sprers.eu; Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Mercenaries Pour Into Africa and Suffer More Losses (Part Two),” 28 January , in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 10,  The Jamestown Foundation, at: sprers.eu
  60. Matthew A. Lauder. “Wolves of the Russian Spring’: An Examination of the Night Wolves as a Proxy for the Russian Government.” In Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3, , pp.
  61. “Dary volkhvov pribyli v Krym,” in sprers.eu, 31 January , at: sprers.eu
  62. Mark Galeotti, “‘Hybrid War’ and ‘Little Green Men’: How It Works, and How It Doesn’t,” E-International Relations, 16 April  , at: sprers.eu
  63. Sergey Sukhankin, “Unleashing the PMCs and Irregulars in Ukraine: Crimea and Donbas,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 3 September , at: sprers.eu#_edn
  64. “Donskie kazaki na Baltike,” in Vsevelikoe Voysko Donskoye, 12 September , at: sprers.eu
  65. For more information, see Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs, War Veterans Running ‘Patriotic’ Youth Camps in the Balk ans (Part One),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 24 October  , at: sprers.eu; Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs, War Veterans Running ‘Patriotic’ Youth Camps in the Balkans (Part Two),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 31 October , at: sprers.eu
  66. “Politicheskiye obshchestvenniki Polshy ustroili pod Kaliningradom perfomans,” in EurAsia Daily, 26 August  , at: sprers.eu
  67. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia Prepares Ambitious Economic Strategy for Arctic Region,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 18, The Jamestown Foundation, 11 February , at: sprers.eu
  68. Marlene Laruelle. Russia’s Arctic strategies and the future of the Far North. M.E. Sharpe, Inc.,
  69. Alexandr Kruglov, Aleksey Ramm, “V Arktike budet zharko: voyska ispytayut Kraynim Severom,” in Izvestiya, 18 December , at: sprers.eu
  70. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Spetsnaz in Norway: ‘Fake News’ Versus Facts,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: , The Jamestown Foundation, 9 October , at: sprers.eu 
  71. Viktor Murakhovskiy, “Krymskaya operatsiya – ochevidnyj marker kachestvenno novogo urovnya razvitiya Rossiyskoy armii,” in Natsyonalnaya Oborona, accessed 10 February , at: sprers.eu
  72. Christopher R. Spearin. “Russia’s Military and Security Privatization,” in The US Army War College Quarterly. Vol. 48 No. 2 (), pp.
  73. C. Anthony Pfaff, and Edward Mienie. Strategic Insights: Five Myths Associated With Employing Private Military Companies. Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), 5 April

Publication

Article by Akram Kharief / RLS

Libyasecuritywar

The private military company Wagner Group is the most decisive player in the military strategy of the Libyan national army, headed by Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Acting as a Russian foreign legion without the constraints of international or Russian law, it has become an instrument of power play for Vladimir Putin. Before addressing Wagner Group, it is wise to understand the roots of Russian institutional mercenarism and the reasons why Wagner is the product of a long process that has always skirted the edge of legality in Russia.

As a key figure connected with Wagner, Yevgeny Pirigozhin has become an icon of Russian Private Military Companies (PMCs). In short, Pirigozhin, (known as &#;Putin&#;s chef&#;) is an oligarch, exclusive supplier of catering to the Kremlin, and a personal friend of Vladimir Putin. As a consequence of his connections and money, and with the help of Dmitri Utkin, the former special forces officer in charge of military affairs he suggested that the Russian President create Wagner to deal with the Kremlin&#;s secret military operations. In reality, the legal and historical background of the Russian security world is far more complex and dates back to the post-Chechen War period. The use of PMCs in Vladimir Putin&#;s Russia that emerged in recent years is not new but built on centuries-old Russian practice.

The use of proxy groups to enforce internal laws or in military campaigns is a tradition in the world&#;s largest country that was once an empire. Russia has always made exceptions to the &#;state monopoly of force&#; concept. In its perception of governance, the central state could delegate this monopoly to auxiliary ethnic or religious groups provided that they paid full allegiance to the Prince/Czar/State. The Cossacks are a perfect example of this.[1]

The term &#;Cossack&#; can be traced back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and originally referred to socially constructed groups of men living as nomadic traders, mercenaries and pirates. It did not refer to an ethnic or religious group but rather a form of social identity. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Cossack groups became a threat to newly developing states by attacking settlements on their borders. They also represented potential military resources for the Moscow state, which was gradually developing and expanding as new territories were conquered and the state needed to defend and establish them as Russian territories. The Russian state eventually negotiated a contract with the Cossacks, granting them special rights over natural resources, trade, and a certain amount of administrative autonomy in the areas where they established themselves in exchange for settling and defending these territories on behalf of the state. In particular, they acted as a barrier to Muslim expansion in present-day Ukraine and southern Russia. This status vis-à-vis the Tsar persisted until the Bolshevik Revolution because the Cossacks fought on more than one side. Some fought in independent Cossack armies, others fought for the Whites, others for the Reds, and many fought for all of them. From onwards, they were subjected to a repressive campaign that killed more than one and a half million of them, and then suffered Stalin&#;s vengeance for having decided to fight for Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Today, Vladimir Putin makes extensive use of the Cossack militia to rule in Southwest Russia or to fight alongside the independence fighters in Donbass and Crimea. In , the Russian President signed a law entitled, &#;On the State Service of the Russian Cossacks,&#; which gave them the status of a state-supported militia with a government salary. This law granted more than , officially registered Cossacks in Russia the right to perform various functions usually controlled by the state. Functions such as defending border regions, guarding national forests, organizing military training for young cadets, fighting terrorism, protecting local government buildings and administrative sites, and providing the vague service of &#;defence of social order.&#; Another example of the use of proxies in the foreign wars of contemporary Russia was the deployment of Muslim Military Policemen (Chechens and Ingush) to Syria from to fight, occupy, and administer the security of cities &#;liberated&#; by the Russian army. [2]

Describing the evolution of Russian PMCs and the process that led to the media coverage of the Wagner Group

Following the collapse of the USSR, the Red Army was in total ruin, fragmented between many newly-created countries with no budget, no leadership, and drained of human resources. Entire units were demobilized, such as the Alpha unit, one of the two special intervention groups of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The first war in Chechnya would eventually deplete the latter and many soldiers, specialists and officers found themselves in the international labour market in the early s. At that time a South African company, Executive Outcomes, was recruiting pilots and aeronautical engineers to operate the helicopters and cargo planes used for its operations. Meanwhile, many former soldiers worked as bodyguards and security guards in hundreds of small security companies that were created in Russia in the early s.

One of the first security companies to export military know-how was Antiterror-Orel. Created in by former members of the special forces in the city of Orel south of Moscow, it initially had the status of a non-governmental training school. The school trained Russian companies that were active abroad on security measures. After the second Iraq war, these mainly oil and mining companies asked Orel to send protection teams to their sites. This dispatch of men was the starting point for the creation of several private military companies operating in Iraq, such as Top Rent Security, Redut-Antiterror and especially Moran Security Group, a company that still exists and is active in maritime anti-piracy and protection.  At the height of the Syrian civil war in , Moran Security Group (MSG) was called in by the government of Bashar al-Assad for a mission to protect and retake oil facilities in eastern Syria.

Since private military activity is illegal in Russia, the owners of MSG created a new Hong Kong-based company called Slavonic Corp that sent men to fight in Syria between Among these men was Dmitri Utkin, a former officer belonging to the 2nd Special Forces Brigade of the GRU (Russian military intelligence) in Pskov. He distinguished himself on the ground in Syria by mastering operational art and being a good commander. His radio call sign at the time was Wagner, in homage to the German composer Utkin was passionate about.

Back in Russia, he created a training centre in in Molkino in the Krasnodar region not far from the Georgian border. The school gradually turned into a military base adjacent to the one occupied by the GRU 10th Special Forces Brigade. This is where the Wagner Group was born.

The company received political and economic support from the Kremlin during its involvement in the war in the Donbass from [3]

 

History of Wagner in Libya

The fall of Muammar Gaddafi was very badly received by Vladimir Putin, who was Prime Minister of Russia in At the time, he openly criticized his President, Dmitri Medvedev, for not having applied the Russian veto against the UN resolution imposing the No Flight Zone in Libya. His return to the helm of the Russian Federation was marked by Moscow&#;s renewed interest in Libyan affairs and a slow rapprochement with Libya&#;s new strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar.[4]

The first Russian mercenary appearance in the region came in early with a demining contract awarded by the Libyan National Army to the Russian military company RSB-Group in the port complex of Benghazi, the country&#;s second-largest city.[5]

The Wagner Group first appeared in May during the LNA-led offensive to retake the city of Derna, the last stronghold of Islamist militias and the Islamic State in eastern Libya. In March , leaders of the private military company mentioned a forthcoming dispatch of troops to Libya to journalists of Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty)[6]. On November 7, , during his visit to Moscow, Marshal Khalifa Haftar met with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Yevgeny Peregozhin. It was not until March that detailed reports of the presence of mercenaries from Wagner in a base in Benghazi surfaced together with their participation in the various operations of the LNA. It is also reported that an amount of million dollars was paid by the United Arab Emirates to cover Wagner&#;s operations in Libya. This Gulf state, which in the past deployed men and mercenaries and has an airbase in Al Khadim in eastern Libya, has always denied funding the Russian private military company.[7]

Wagner&#;s real involvement began after the LNA&#;s general offensive to reconquer Libya on April 3, Initially timid during the first phase, which covered the South, its activities became more acute after the capture of Sebha and the offensive on Tripoli. From September and the arrival of the first Turkish military advisers in Tripoli to assist the National Accord Government (GNA), the fighting became more intense and Wagner began to count its first casualties. The use of attack drones by Turkey reversed the course of the battle for Tripoli during September and October Sources, including the Russian opposition media, Meduza, reported 35 dead in bombings[8]. In el Sebaa, 65 km south of the capital, Wagner mercenaries left many clues to their presence before retreating.

On December 12, , Khalifa Haftar announced that he had given the order to launch the &#;final battle&#; for control of Tripoli. He declared, &#;The zero hour has struck for the large and total assault expected by all free and honest Libyans.&#; Turkey responded to this declaration by sending massive numbers of troops, vast amounts of equipment, and thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Tripoli and Misrata.[9] This signalled the withdrawal of the NLA to the south and its defeat in Tripoli, which culminated in the ANL&#;s loss of the al Watya airbase and the fall of Tarhuna, the last pro-Haftar stronghold in the west, on June 5, The defeat marked a change of strategy for Wagner. Their new mission was to stop the Turkish army and the GNA forces from advancing eastward, to defend Sirte and the Libyan Oil Crescent. This mission evolved during and into the construction of a defence line separating Tripolitania from Cyrenaica and Fezzan.[10]

 

The fighters, their salaries, and their motivation

Wagner Group is estimated to have had up to 3, men under its command in Libya the majority of whom are Slavs, mainly from Russia, but also from Belarus, Ukraine, the autonomist regions of Ukraine (DNR, Novarossia, Crimea), Albania and Serbia. According to Meduza&#;s[11] investigation, soldiers are offered a salary of , rubles per month (US$3,) and up to double that for officers and specialists (gunners, snipers, sappers, anti-aircraft operators, drone pilots and aviation personnel). They are not always highly trained or ex-special forces personnel, many are basic operators with a simple military background.

Recruitment is done by word of mouth, or through ex-military associations. Recruiters canvass potential candidates with little information about the location or nature of the contract. Once recruited, they undergo coordination training at the Wagner training centre near Krasnodar or at the Vesley farm near Rostov na Dunu, which is part of the Russian army.

 

Alliances, equipment, tactics and location

On May 26, , Russia sent fighters, bombers and helicopters to Libya. Mig fighters and Sus transited through the Russian base of Hmeimim in Syria. AFRICOM accused Wagner Group of operating the aircraft in offensive missions in Libya[12]. These aircraft are not the only heavy equipment received and operated by Wagner in Libya. According to several sources and documents, the Russian PMC also received at least one Pantsir S1 air defence vehicle, different from those used by the LNA and Wagner and &#;on loan&#; from the United Arab Emirates. To protect its aircraft, Wagner used P Spoonrest radars in addition to the LNA radars.

For their armoured ground movements Wagner&#;s &#;musicians&#; use armoured vehicles manufactured in Russia by a company belonging to the Yevgeny Pirigozhin group of companies. The vehicle is called a Valkyrie, Chekan, Shchuka or Wagner Wagon[13], and is the MRAP built on a URAL chassis by the company EVRO POLIS LLC. This same company signed protection contracts with the Syrian state in the past and it possibly provides legal cover for its activities abroad.

According to Oryx Blog, Wagner uses a wide range of weapons and equipment and has also carried out repairs to the Libyan army&#;s weapons. Among the weapons imported by Wagner in violation of the embargo on arms deliveries to Libya are[14] MRAP GAZ Tigr-M, D mm guns, and MSTA mm Howitzers. More specific to the region, in terms of small arms, Wagner&#;s troops use AKs and especially the Osiris T sniper rifle, which is completely new to the region.

Wagner operated a few drones during its operations, namely, Zala Es and Orlan 10s. For its operations in Libya, Wagner&#;s mercenaries use Antonov 28 aircraft belonging to two air transport companies, Jenis Air and Space Cargo, both named by the UN Panel of Experts on Libya for possible arms embargo violations. For foreign travel, Wagner&#;s men and equipment use Russian rd Flight Wing cargo planes with mandatory stops at bases in Hmeimim, Syria, or Sidi Berrani, Egypt.

Wagner also used prohibited weapons and techniques during its withdrawal from southern Tripoli in , such as MON, 90 and anti-personnel mines, which are prohibited by the Ottawa Convention.  Some reports indicate that as they fled Tripoli in the summer of , Wagner&#;s musicians booby-trapped numerous buildings and even left behind a booby-trapped Teddy bear, as confirmed in a report by Amnesty International.[15]

 

Who are Wagner&#;s allies on the ground?

Wagner&#;s mercenaries have always found it difficult to collaborate with other Libyan militias or with the brigades of the Libyan National Army. The only actual collaboration between Wagner and a Libyan militia was with the Kaniat (7th brigade of the LNA)[16] during the evacuation of Tarhuna.

Wagner&#;s musicians enjoyed working with the Sudanese Janjaweed because of their fighting spirit. They helped the Russians stop the GNA&#;s counter-offensive towards Sirte in September There are between 3, and 6, Sudanese fighters in Libya who are based near al-Jufrah and the headquarters taken by Wagner in late [17] Another military force stationed near Wagner that collaborated with the LNA and the Russian company was the Chadian militia FACT (Le Front pour l&#;alternance et la concorde au Tchad) [18] between April and April Its ground offensives were much appreciated by Wagner.

However, in May , the Russians made a strategic decision to reinforce Wagner with Syrian fighters. So, Moscow commissioned Colonel Alexander Zorin, who was the head of the reconciliation commission in Syria to recruit mercenaries. According to Foreign Policy magazine, Zorin, better known in Syria as &#;the godfather&#; of the reconciliation agreements between the regime and rebels in Ghouta, Deraa and Quneitra, had visited southern Syria in early April , a region considered particularly fertile ground for Russian recruitment, not only because of endemic poverty but also because of the lack of support from any other regional or global power. Many rebels in the region had already pledged allegiance to Assad in July after the U.S. denied them additional aid. In cooperation with Assad&#;s intelligence officials, Zorin reportedly began negotiations with several rebel groups to send them to fight in Libya.

More than 3, Syrians joined Assad during this period for salaries of US$1, for troops and US$5, for commanders.[19]

 

What are their techniques on the ground?

Wagner is somewhat avant-garde when preparing for battles and wars or ensuring orderly withdrawal. In the case of Libya, they actively participated in the preparation of the offensive against Tripoli. The rationale behind their involvement was to prepare for a transition from a period of peace to a period of crisis. Their expertise in Libya was, for example, acts of sabotage, elimination of key personnel, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and target identification. They played a key role in the war against Bayraktar drones by identifying their storage locations or landing runways to be bombed by the LNA.

Wagner may have deployed up to 2, fighters to Libya and they were organized into four companies. The main one was a special forces company for reconnaissance in force, a tank company, a combined artillery group (MSTA, D, BM Grad), intelligence units, logistics units, and a battalion headquarters. Compared to Syria, Wagner in Libya had little tank experience but has had to increase its capabilities in war aviation and air defence. After June , and Wagner&#;s withdrawal to al-Jufrah, a military engineering capability was integrated to build a line of defence cutting Libya in half. Militarily, Wagner now deploys the equivalent of a consolidated battle group.

 

Political and media influence

Russia and Wagner played a very important role politically and media-wise in the defence of Khalifa Haftar. From a political engineering perspective, Wagner also established and maintained contacts with Saif al Islam Qaddafi after his release from prison. The contacts with Saif al Islam began at the turn of , reports the Russian media Planeta.[20] Prigozhin delegates met at least once with Gaddafi in person and also arranged phone conversations with him. The meeting took place in Zintan, a city in western Libya in early One of the documents states that this was at a secret location.

The report of the Russian delegation on the meeting with Seif on April 3, (the date of the beginning of Haftar&#;s offensive), is particularly interesting. The speaker describes the circumstances of the conversation as Gaddafi being constantly distracted by watching the news about Haftar on television and ending with recommendations for further steps. The filming of incriminating videos on Haftar by Prigozhin&#;s forces and posting them on social media networks was suggested.

One of the architects of this attempt at Russian political interference was Maxim Shugaley[21]. On the morning of May 17, , he was arrested together with his interpreter, Samer Sueifan. They spent 18 months of detention in atrocious conditions in Tripoli. Sugaley, who was 53 years old at the time went to Libya, officially as a &#;researcher and expert&#; for a &#;research project&#; launched by the &#;Foundation for the Protection of National Values&#;, a Moscow-based organization linked to Prigozhin. The chairman of the foundation&#;s board of directors, Alexander Malkevich, is under U.S. sanctions for his role in an alleged operation run by Prigozhin.

Shugaley was accused of secretly meeting with political figures, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. These meetings drew the attention of Libyan intelligence services that seized documents on laptops indicating interference in the Libyan elections. He had also conducted numerous opinion polls to feel the pulse of the street in Tripoli and other Libyan cities. In Tripoli, he was accompanied by another Russian political expert, Alexander Prokofiev, who had shortened his stay, thereby escaping arrest.

A known agent of influence, Shugaley had tried to sway the presidential election in Madagascar in favour of a pro-Russian candidate. After being released in , he will be involved in the presidential election in the Central African Republic and even be part of the Russian delegation destined to meet the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in August. He will conduct more than a hundred interviews with Afghan political figures. Another soft power channel developed by Wagner in Libya is the media and social networks.  In , The Stanford Internet Observatory identified numerous traces of Russian and Wagner involvement in the media in Libya.[22]

Our analysis of social media posts targeting Libya provides one of the first known assessments of its apparent expansion into online social influence campaigns. Similar to its actions elsewhere in Africa &#; such as its involvement in Madagascar &#; the Wagner Group seems to be hedging its bets by supporting multiple candidates. The posts reviewed indicate, in support of previous reports, that Russia is also supporting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. All site administrators are in Egypt along with at least one additional administrator in another country. Wagner also favours channelling local and regional information in large sparsely-populated countries where it is very difficult to move from one region to another. The group also financed the relocation and modernization of former state-owned (under Gaddafi) al-Jamahiriya television[23], which remains a very popular medium in Libya. Once again, it was to Egypt, Wagner&#;s home base, that the studios of this television station were transferred.

 

Outlook

On 13 December , EU foreign ministers decided to impose sanctions on the Russian private military contractor Wagner as well as eight individuals and three entities linked to the group[24]. These sanctions also affected Dmitry Utkin, the alleged military commander of the Wagner Group. The EU Council press release states that &#;the Wagner Group has recruited, trained and sent private military operatives to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, plunder natural resources and intimidate civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law.&#; At the same time, there were reports of the evacuation of Wagner&#;s mercenaries to Syria and Russia. Libya specialist, Jalel Harchaoui, believes that this is disinformation after a fairly quiet for Wagner in Libya but that it is not about to leave any time soon. Following a slow , the Russians in Libya are likely to turn up the heat, especially given the postponement of the Libyan presidential election to

 

[1]   Anna Borshchevskaya. &#;Russian Private Military Companies: Continuity and Evolution of the Model&#;, Foreign Policy Research Institute, December 18, , sprers.eu

[2]    Åse Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll, &#;Russian Use of Private Military and Security Companies &#; the implications for European and Norwegian Security&#;, FFI Rapport 18/, CR Michelsens Institutt. September 11, , sprers.eu

[3]New America, &#;Tracing Wagner&#;s Roots&#;, sprers.eu

[4]     Clifford J Levy and Thom Shanker. &#;In Rare Split, Two Leaders in Russia Differ on Libya&#;, New York Times, March 21, , sprers.eu

[5]     Maria Tsvetkova, &#;Exclusive: Russian private security firm says it had armed men in east Libya&#;, Reuters, Aerospace and Defense, March 10, , sprers.eu

[6]Radio Svoboda. March 7,, sprers.eu

[7]    Amy Mackinnon and Jack Detsch, &#;Pentagon Says UAE Possibly Funding Russia&#;s Shadowy Mercenaries in Libya&#;, FP, November 30, , sprers.eu

[8]    Liliya Yapporova, &#;A small price to pay for Tripoli Between 10 and 35 Russian mercenaries have been killed in the Libyan Civil War. We identified several of them&#;, Meduza, October 2, , sprers.eu

[9]    Jason Pack and Matthew Sinkez, &#;Khalifa Haftar&#;s Miscalculated Attack on Tripoli Will Cost Him Dearly&#;, FP, April 10, , sprers.eu

[10] CSIS, Twitter, July 1, , sprers.eu

[11]Meduza, &#;As Meduza found out, recruiters are gathering groups of mercenaries in Russia for a &#;business trip to Donbass&#;. What they will do there is unknown&#;, December 22, , sprers.eu

[12]United States Africa Command, New evidence of Russian aircraft active in Libyan airspace&#;, Stuttgart, Germany, Jun 18, , sprers.eu

[13] Denis Korotkov, &#;Our pround Ural does not surrender to the enemy&#;, Novayagazeta, July 11, , sprers.eu

[14] Christiaan Durrant, &#;Tracking Arms Transfers By the UAE, Russia, Jordan and Egypt to The Libyan National Army Since &#;, Oryx, March 23, , sprers.eu

[15] Amnesty, &#;Retaliatory attacks against civilians must be investigated and investigated and stopped&#;, Amnesty, June 5, , sprers.eu

[16]US Department of the Treasury, November 25, , sprers.eu

[17] Mourad Teyeb, Twitter, May 20, , sprers.eu

[18] Frederic Bobin, &#;Death of Idriss Deby: southern Libya, troubling rear base for Chadian rebels&#; Le Monde, April 22, , sprers.eu

[19] Anchal Vohra, &#;It&#;s Syrian vs. Syrian in Libya&#;, FP, May 5, , sprers.eu

[20] Planeta, &#;Project: Chef and Cook Investigation into how Russia is involved in the civil war in Libya&#;, Planeta, 09/12//News, sprers.eu

[21] Jared Malsin and Thomas Grove, &#;Researcher or Spy? Maxim Shugaley Saga Points to How Russia Now Builds Influence Abroad&#;, Wall Street Journal, Oct.5, , sprers.eu

[22] Shelby Grossman, Daniel Bush, Renee DiResta, &#;Evidence of Russa-Linked Influence Operations i Africa&#;, Stanford University, Internet Observatory, White Paper, published 29 October, , sprers.eu

[23] Michael Weiss and Pierre Vaux, &#;Russia&#;s Wagner Mercenaries Have Moved into Libya. Good Luck With That&#;, Daily Beast, Sep. 28, , sprers.eu

[24]   Hans Von Der Burchard, &#;EU slaps sanctions on Russian Mercenary Group Wagner&#;, Politico, December 13, , sprers.eu

 

The content of this text does not necessarily reflect the position of RLS

antiterror - orel.ru

The lack of a sound legislative framework in Russia has not posed an obstacle to the development of private military companies (PMCs), which have enjoyed a de facto presence in key conflict areas in the world for almost a decade.

For example, Antiterror-Orel (Anti-Terror Eagle, in English), which was set up by former Vnukovo Airlines employee Sergei Isakov under the auspices dist error occuried Suleyman Kerimov, has been undertaking non-military operations in Iraq to protect facilities and escort cargo since

Moreover, antiterror - orel.ru, the low competitiveness of Russian PMCs registered offshore is evidence of their narrow set of functions and, by international standards, minimal employee wages. Russian companies offer standard security services, while the largest players in the market of private military services have long since switched to multi-specialization, in which consulting and specialized training occupy key niches.

For instance, U.S.-based Academi (formerly Blackwater) focuses on training programs for U.S. military personnel, offering courses in shooting, fighting, and extreme driving at its own training base. Its main customer is the U.S. government.

PMCs in Israel, meanwhile, have secured a strong foothold in the consulting industry and, in particular, the alignment of security and intelligence systems. British PMCs specialize in risk management, logistics, and protection of financial infrastructure.

Thus, the focus of "military services" has now shifted antiterror - orel.ru the developing word. It is common practice to subcontract security and escort services to smaller companies in high-risk areas, usually in unstable countries.

Even if they acquire legal status, antiterror - orel.ru, Russian PMCs are unlikely to be successful in the market, which is currently monopolized by the U.K. and the United States. At present, Russian PMCs are simply unable to compete in the hi-tech industries, reducing their role to that of mere mercenary.

Moreover, Russia is not currently engaged in military operations abroad and does not need "rearguard" reinforcements in the form of private paramilitary structures.

The government's decision to farm out PMCs to existing businesses clearly shows that it is more interested in two other types of commercial military structures: corporate and ethnic quasi-armies.

The former are represented by the antiterror - orel.ru services of industrial companies that operate antiterror - orel.ru hot spots. They already count more "security" employees than the FSB, and, in countries where Russian corporations own facilities, they essentially function in extraterritorial mode.

The legalization of military security enterprises would allow such corporations to use outsourcing in situations that require personnel with specific skills: for example, to counter attacks by pirates.

Whereas special training of corporate security services may not be commercially justified in this instance, PMCs with a niche profile could cope with the task error 017 undefined symbol allowed and efficiently. Furthermore, PMCs would be authorized to build up existing security capacity.

However, in addition to antiterror - orel.ru security services that enjoy broad autonomy in overseas operations, a commercial quasi-army could also be deployed inside Russia itself. Its scope could include security in border areas in remote regions experiencing pressure from immigration; Russia's Far East is a prime example of such a region.

Still, the commercial and tactical benefits of setting up PMCs do not alter the fact that the gradual privatization and transformation of security into an "external" service – even inside the country – is a kind of ticking time bomb. In essence, it blurs the right to commit violence, over which the state has a monopoly.

The legalization of PMCs will go hand-in-hand with an increase in illicit arms trafficking. In the future, PMCs could become independent domestic players, antiterror - orel.ru, free to side with any of the "centers of power" in existence at the time. In fact, the situation may even stimulate another stage of neo-feudalism in Russia. 

Nadezhda Sokolva is an expert at the Governance and Problem Analysis Center.

First published in Russian antiterror - orel.ru sprers.eu

Center for Strategic & International Studies

September 21,

This article is part of the CSIS executive education program Understanding the Russian Military Today.

The Russian private military company Wagner Group may appear to be a conventional business company. However, its management and operations are deeply intertwined with the Russian military and intelligence community. The Russian government has found Wagner and other private military companies to be useful as a way to extend mysql error code 1017 influence overseas without the visibility and intrusiveness of state military forces. As a result, Wagner should be considered a proxy organization of the Russian state rather than a private company selling services on the open market.1

Historical and legal background of private military companies in Russia

The post-Cold War era brought a renaissance of private security companies (PSCs) and private military companies (PMCs). Both state and non-state actors have frequently relied on their services, as these companies are more flexible, cheaper, less accountable, antiterror - orel.ru, and often a lot more capable than regular militaries. Conflicts of antiterror - orel.ru 21st century, particularly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saw PMCs getting involved on all levels, from providing logistical support to high-intensity operations.

Post-Soviet Russia followed the trend of privatization of state violence relatively late, mostly due to the internal resistance of the armed forces, as well as to economic hardships. While there are thousands of private security companies operating in the country, guarding infrastructure and providing VIP-protection services, private military companies still can not be established legally on the territory of the Russian Federation. Although certain legal loopholes, to be explained later, made it possible for a few companies resembling Western PMCs to operate in the s, Russian private military companies gained worldwide attention only in the s, antiterror - orel.ru, as a result of their participation in the wars in Syria and Ukraine.

Russia builds on the Soviet Union’s long history of operating proxy forces abroad. For example, the so-called Soviet Volunteer Group was an air force detachment deployed to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War in Nominally, all the pilots and technicians were volunteers, and Moscow officially denied any connection to them; in fact, they belonged to the Soviet Air Force. A few years later, during the Winter War against Finland, the Soviet Union used the puppet government of pro-Moscow Finnish politician, Otto Wille Kuusinen, as a cover for its attack on Finland. The ,plus strong attacking force nominally belonged to the Kuusinen-government; however, this cover was so weak that Moscow abandoned it before the end of the war.

In the Cold War era, the Soviet Union sent thousands of military specialists under the cover of “advisors” to many conflicts worldwide, primarily the Middle East. Soviet advisors played an important role in modernizing the armed forces of Syria, Egypt, Libya, and a number of other states. In the s, Russian “volunteers” participated in the separatist conflicts of Moldova and Georgia, while the Russian state officially denied antiterror - orel.ru involvement in the conflicts and labelled them civil wars.

More recently, Russian military scholars have closely studied how the United States and its allies employed PSCs and PMCs in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Russia had direct, though sporadic, contacts with Western PSCs in Afghanistan. The arms trafficking network of Viktor Bout occasionally even cooperated with several PSCs while antiterror - orel.ru provided logistical services to the U.S. forces in Iraq.

Private military companies as tools of influence

The Kremlin has developed its own view of PMCs. Instead of approaching the question from the budgetary perspective—namely that PMCs are more flexible and cheaper antiterror - orel.ru the regular military—Russia perceives them mainly as political-military tools of state influence, which can be employed under the cover antiterror - orel.ru plausible deniability. As pointed out by Antiterror - orel.ru Borshchevskaya, antiterror - orel.ru, in several special operations units of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) were subordinated directly to Antiterror - orel.ru of Staff Nikolay Makarov. Though there is no direct evidence, these units were probably intended to become the personnel source for private military companies to be set up in the future. A year later, Makarov publicly spoke about the need to use private military companies “for delicate missions abroad.” The logic prevailed: in Aprilwhen then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was asked in the Russian Duma about whether he supported the idea of creating a network of Russian private military companies, he replied positively and emphasized that PMCs could be tools of influence abroad, allowing the realization of national interests without the direct involvement of the state. As examples, he noted that such companies could provide protection of important facilities, as well as training for foreign military personnel abroad. Plausible deniability played a key role in Russia’s considerations about setting up private military companies, based also on the rich historical experiences Moscow has.

Another motivation for using PMCs is that it permits the Russian state to hide personnel losses from the Russian public. As these formations are formally private companies, their losses do not count in the official Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reports of how many servicemen have died or been injured. Thus, Russian MoD reports about the lost voennosluzhashchie (servicemembers) never include losses suffered by Russian private military companies operating in the same operational theater. The same logic allows Russia to deny the involvement of its proxies in the conflicts, as PMC contractors do not count as voennosluzhashchie. This is significant because Russian PMC operatives often fight in the front lines and attack difficult positions, and so their losses are much higher than those of the regular military.

The legal background

The Russian constitution specifically stipulates that all matters of security and defense belong solely to the state. Consequently, the establishment of private military companies is illegal in Russia, despite repeated efforts of certain powerful groups to change that. Pro-legalization arguments mostly center around the wide international practice of using PMCs, which would justify Russia doing the same. According to news reports, however, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Error 00000002 00000005 initializing io driver, and other security agencies are strongly against lifting this ban.

However, there are a number of important loopholes in the Russian legislative system. While individuals are not allowed to serve as mercenaries, per the Russian Criminal Code, state-run enterprises are permitted to have private armed forces and security foundations. Combined with a usually dense de facto network of subcontractors, this allows Russian citizens to work for private military companies despite the nominal ban, antiterror - orel.ru. Another workaround is to register companies abroad, which allows Russian authorities to ignore the operations of the “foreign” PMC. As Candace Rondeaux argues, the likely motivation of the Russian state to not push antiterror - orel.ru the full legalization of private military companies is that this legal opacity adds to the overall ambiguity surrounding these entities; thus it increases the state’s freedom of maneuver in using them.

In practice, the legal environment is so permissive that most Russian private military companies prefer to recruit exclusively Russian citizens. Meanwhile, the formal ban on serving as a mercenary provides the Russian state with strong legal leverage over PMC operatives, ensuring their overall compliance with the state’s preferences.

Wagner Group is far from being the sole Russian private military company. Anna Maria Dyner lists several other Russian private military companies that have operated abroad, such as the E.N.O.T. Corporation in Syria and the Feraks group in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as the Antiterror-Orel Group and many others.

Direct predecessor of the Wagner Group: the Slavonic Corps

In line with the restrictive legal environment and the logic of plausible deniability, the so-called Slavonic Corps, a private military company, was set up in Hong Kong in by two employees of a conventional Russian PSC: the Moran Security Group. According to a Norwegian study published inhowever, it was in fact the Syrian government that contracted the Moran Security Group to assist Syrian government forces in fighting the Islamic State. As Moran itself was not up to the task, even though it had been operating in Syria already for at least a year, the decision was taken to set up a new entity; this became the Slavonic Corps.

Operatives of the Slavonic Corps deployed to Syria in Their mission was to assist Syrian forces in re-capturing oil facilities from Islamic State militants. However, several coordination and logistical problems arose. The key problem was that the Slavonic Corps relied on the Syrian government for logistics, but instead of the promised modern weapons, it received outdated weaponry in insufficient numbers. Its first combat mission in Syria ended with a spectacular defeat near Deir al-Zour. Survivors were transported back to Antiterror - orel.ru, and the company was disbanded.

The Wagner Group and Its Connections to the Russian State

The private military company Wagner Group appeared shortly after the Slavonic Corps ceased to exist. While Wagner is frequently referred to as a private company connected to the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, there are several factors indicating that the entity is closely linked to the Russian state.

An important detail is that Wagner Group is not registered either in Russia or anywhere else— de jure, the company does not exist. In line with the logic of ambiguity described above, the Russian state not only tolerates but, in many cases, actively supports its actions.

The career of Dmitry Utkin

Dmitry Utkin is the founder of the Wagner Group. A veteran of both Chechen wars, Utkin served in the GRU untilafter which he commanded a Spetsnaz unit, reaching the rank of a lieutenant colonel. Inhe quit the service and joined the Moran Security Group, in whose ranks he participated in the Slavonic Corps’ above-mentioned, failed operation in Syria. Inhe quit Moran and established the Wagner Error eventlog 6008 windows 7. The company was named after his old callsign “Vagner.” It cannot be verified whether Utkin initiated the establishment of Wagner Group or was only a front man for someone else.

Operatives of the Wagner Group, as well as Utkin himself, participated in the Russian operations in Ukraine in During the period from toUkrainian signals intelligence intercepted three phone conversations of Utkin reporting to GRU Colonel Oleg Ivannikov, as well as to Major General Evgeny Nikiforov, chief of staff of Russia’s 58th Army. These conversations indicated that Utkin was subordinated both antiterror - orel.ru the GRU and to the Russian military command. Another indicator of Utkin’s very close connection to the Russian state is that he was photographed at a Kremlin reception held on December 9,where he was decorated with the Order for Courage, antiterror - orel.ru, allegedly for his services in Ukraine.

Shared base with the GRU

The main base of the Wagner Group is located in a town called Molkino, in Russia’s Krasnodar district. What makes this facility highly unusual is that it is operated jointly by the 10th Separate Special Purpose Brigade of Russia’s GRU and the Wagner Group. After passing the first checkpoint guarded by GRU soldiers, if one drives left, they will come to the Crm 4.0 advanced find error on page facility, conflict global terror pc the road on the right leads to the Wagner barracks. An investigative report, published in the Russian journal Znak in Marchrevealed that despite the fiasco at Deir ez-Zor, the base was constantly expanded and new buildings were being built.

It is highly unusual for any private company to share a base with an elite, special antiterror - orel.ru military unit, and it application-defined or object-defined error access particularly odd that GRU personnel guard the road leading to the barracks of a PMC. The fact that Molkino base operates the way it does implies that relations between the two organizations are indeed cordial.

Reliance on Russian military infrastructure

There have been several documented occasions where Wagner operatives used transport infrastructure related to Russia’s Ministry of Defense. When Wagner operatives were deployed to Venezuela to assist President Nicolas Maduro, they arrived onboard Russian Air Force transport aircrafts, an Ilyushin IlM and an Antonov An In Libya, Russian military Ilyushin Il cargo aircrafts supply Wagner operatives fighting on the ground. Wagner personnel regularly fly in and out of Syria on military transport aircraft.

And transport is not the only sector where it can be documented that Wagner is relying on Russian military infrastructure. Multiple investigative reports confirm that operatives of Wagner Group are treated and rehabilitated in Russian military hospitals. For example, antiterror - orel.ru, after the February defeat at Deir ez-Zor, the wounded survivors were evacuated by Russian military medical aircraft to the military hospitals in Rostov and Moscow. This detail indicates that Wagner is connected so closely to Russian military structures that their operatives are entitled to receive specialized military health care—a benefit unlikely to be received by any normal private company.

GRU-issued passports

According to reports of the Ukrainian security service (the SBU), verified by Bellingcat’s investigative reporting, Wagner operatives often use passports issued by a special passport desk in Moscow: Central Migration Office Unit This unit issues passports almost exclusively to people linked to Russia’s Ministry of Defense. It was smtp data-2 protocol error same Unit that issued the passports on the fake identities of the two perpetrators of the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal. Moreover, the documented passports of Wagner operatives were issued with sequential antiterror - orel.ru, implying they were given out in groups, in an error status code 0007 way. As the journalists of Bellingcat observed, this indicates that the Russian state not only tolerates but actively supports the operations of Wagner contractors abroad.

Presidential-level intervention for the sake of the Wagner Group

The last weeks of the presidential election campaign in Belarus brought an unexpected development: on July 29th, Belarusian authorities arrested 33 Russian citizens who allegedly belonged to the Wagner Group. While Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko used the story of the arrested Wagner operatives for his election campaign, accusing them of planning to interfere with the elections, independent sources revealed that, in fact, the Wagner Group has been using Belarus regularly as a transit country to various operational theaters; thus their presence on Belarusian territory was by no means extraordinary.

On July 31st, Russian President Vladimir Putin specially convened a meeting of the Russian National Antiterror - orel.ru Council to discuss the issue. Thereafter, Putin raised the matter at leasttwice during his bilateral phone conversations with Lukashenko. Not surprisingly, antiterror - orel.ru, the arrested Russian Wagner operatives were released shortly after the Belarusian elections were over, without any charges. The fact that the arrest of Wagner operatives made Putin urgently convene a special meeting of the National Security Council and that he discussed the issue directly with Lukashenko indicates that the fate of the arrested Wagner operatives was of extremely high importance to the Kremlin—which would be unlikely had Wagner not been closely connected to the Russian state.

Conclusion

Wagner is closely, often directly, connected to the Russian state. There is evidence indicating that the Wagner Group was subordinated to the Russian military in Ukraine. Wagner extensively relies on Russian military infrastructure, from using a shared base to being transported by Russian military aircraft to using military health care services. The Russian state is also documented supporting the Wagner Group with passports and, as implied by the recent events in Belarus, even by presidential-level political intervention.

Considering these factors, the transatlantic scholarly discourse about the Wagner Group should change. Instead of using the Russian narrative, according to which Wagner is a private military company, Wagner should be viewed as a classic proxy organization and handled accordingly. In this context, the fact that Wagner intends to appear as a private military antiterror - orel.ru should be considered of limited relevance.

András Rácz is Senior Research Fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) operating in Berlin, Germany, antiterror - orel.ru. The views expressed here are solely of his own, and do not represent the official position of CSIS, of any other institution, or state.

Background research for the present study has been conducted with the support of the research grant No.titled 'Tradition and Flexibility in Russia’s Security and Defense Policy', provided by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary.

CSIS does not take specific policy positions, antiterror - orel.ru. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s). 

1An important methodological particularity is that this analysis concentrates solely on the direct connections between the Wagner Group and the Russian state. Hence, questions of oligarchic interests occasionally overlapping with Russian state priorities, which may direct Wagner’s operations in various parts of the world, are outside the focus of the present study.

Russia’s Private Military Contractors:
Cause for Worry?1

The World In Which We Live

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CRT0JM

Russian servicemen, dressed in historical uniforms, take part in a military parade rehearsal in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral at Red Square in central Moscow, 6 November

by Sergey Sukhankin and Alla Hurska

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Dr. Sergey Sukhankin is a Research Fellow in the Jamestown Foundation, and an Advisor with Gulf State Analytics, both located in Washington, D.C. He also teaches at the MacEwan School of Business in Edmonton. Sergey has consulted with various high-profile bodies and agencies, including the DIA (Washington), CSIS and the DND (Ottawa), and the European Parliament in Brussels.

Alla Hurska is an Associate Fellow with the International Centre for Policy Studies (Kyiv), and an Analyst in the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, and she is pursuing her Masters degree at the University of 500 internal server error wordpress fix in Edmonton. Her areas of interest include Russian and Chinese policies in the Arctic region, non-linear forms of warfare, disinformation, Ukrainian foreign and security policy, and the geopolitics of oil.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CP1YF8

Russian soldiers, on armoured vehicles, patrol a street in Aleppo, Syria, 2 February

Introduction

Two major geopolitical shifts – the Syrian civil war and the Ukrainian conflict – drew attention of the global academic and policy-related community to the antiterror - orel.ru of Russia’s private military companies (PMCs) and the so-called Wagner Group, antiterror - orel.ru has become the living symbol of Russia’s covert use of ‘shady’ militarized groups in a powerplay against the west and its allies as well as securing Russia’s geo-economic/strategic interests abroad.

Although they are effective as a tool against weaker opponents, we argue that Russian PMCs should not be viewed as a strategic element in Russia’s military toolkit. Indeed, they are effective only when paired with Russia’s regular armed forces. We contend that PMCs are unlikely to be used against NATO members directly. Nevertheless, antiterror - orel.ru, Antiterror - orel.ru will continue employing these forces in zones of instability as a means to engage the West in non-linear and asymmetric fashion.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2D0T32D

Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen march near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, 5 March

Russian PMCs throughout History

Russia’s reliance upon non-state actors dates back to the second half of the 16th Century.2 In general, antiterror - orel.ru, in Tsarist Russia, militarized irregular formations, primarily Cossacks, antiterror - orel.ru, were employed by the state for various (para)military tasks, including ensuring physical safety of the Russian monarch and, using contemporary parlance, confronting “hybrid threats.”3 Russian irregulars played a visible role in all major regional conflicts waged by the Tsarist regime, frequently acting as proto-special forces that were partly tasked with protection of the Russian national border in the areas populated by the non-Russian peoples. In the course of the Russian Civil War (–), both sides of the conflict also actively relied upon and collaborated with various forms of irregular formations and armed groups.4

During the Soviet period (–), antiterror - orel.ru, the state primarily used irregulars in pursuit of its geopolitical objectives. Specifically, in antiterror - orel.ru confrontation with the western powers in the Third World, that is, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Soviets would use “military instructors” – active military5 sent to ‘friendly countries’ to assist local armed forces in training, yet on many occasions directly participating in combat.6 The Soviet state acted as both contractor and provider of these services, whereas pecuniary motives were almost completely overshadowed by ideological calculations.7 However, in the s, this trend experienced a certain transformation: in Libya, the Soviet military instructors and advisors started to be used by the government of Muamar Gaddafi in his adventurous “border wars.”8 Upon the dissolution of the USSR, many of them chose to remain in Libya and serve Gaddafi,9 de-facto becoming the first Russian private military contractors in Africa.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in dealt a severe blow to state moveuser error 1316 and Russian society. An abrupt and ill-planned transition to a market economy destroyed or badly damaged key governmental structures. Two of the main ‘victims’ were the security services and the armed forces. Chronically underfinanced and occasionally humiliated by the new regime,10 this branch of the Russian state started to lose some of its most qualified cadre to various ‘business’ (de-facto semi-criminal) structures.11 Thus, the roots of Russia’s current PMCs industry should be acknowledged within this historical epoch (–), antiterror - orel.ru. However, it would not be adequate to refer to a single source. Instead, we propose to take a look at the following three (intertwined) groups.

ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo/BPBDBC

Russian servicemen keep position in the administrative border between Daghestan in Chechnya, 25 May

The first group consists of ‘volunteers’ who had participated in conflicts throughout the post-communist period in places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Transnistria, Tajikistan, Chechnya, and the Balkans (Bosnia).12 As noted by a distinguished Russian military officer, Igor Girkin/Strelkov, a participant in hostilities in Bosnia himself,13 many “volunteers” were drawn to these “gray zones” for “résumé building”: to later join either Western PMCs or the private security structures.14

A second set of groups comprises ‘private armies’ organized in the s as a result of an expanding Russian criminal web.15 To gain military experience, their members took part in some regional conflicts, including Chechnya, where they fought “on both sides of the barricades.”16 Within this sub-group, special attention should be allocated to Roman Tsepov, the owner of a security firm named “Baltik-Eskort” (). The firm – which began as an idea of Viktor Zolotov, the current Director of the National Guard of Russia and a member of the Security Council – was tightly connected to some of Russia’s most powerful organized criminal groups (the Tambov Gang), and rendered security services to the family of (then) Kak izbavitsjai /o error 1784. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and also for his deputy at the time, Antiterror - orel.ru Putin.17 Later, “private armies” were disbanded with some of its members and leaders being either killed or moved to private security companies (PSCs).

ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo/2A8CPM3

Viktor Zolotov, head of the Russian Federal National Guard Service, makes remarks at the unveiling of a monument to Russian National Guard officers killed in the line of duty at Pobedy Square, Ryazan, Russia, 8 November

A third group consists indeed of those PSCs. The most well-known players on the Russian market were Antiterror-Orel, Antiterror, Redut-Antiterror.18 Particular attention should be paid to the Moran Security Group (founded in ) – a spin-off of the Antiterror PSC. Unlike similar groups, Moran consisted of a “consortium” of smaller companies, and even had a ‘marine’ branch, which owned a number of vessels, Ratibor (ESU), Maagen (E5U), Anchor 1 (E5U) and Deo Juvante (E5U). The company offered a much broader set of services than the ‘standard packages,’ with some Russian sources even claiming: “…one of the company’s clients was Bashar al-Assad.”19 In effect, there is every reason to believe that the origins of the Wagner group were somehow related to Moran: not only did it stand behind the Slavonic Corps Limited PMC, but also ties of some of the Moran members – including Alexander Kuznetsov20 – with Wagner have also been proven.

Russia antiterror - orel.ru. the World: Differences in Practices

As Norwegian research specialists in Russian military and security politics Åse Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll indicate, the range of services typically provided by the Western private military security companies (PMSCs) consists of “protective security services, military support, and state building services” and “[Western companies] will generally shy away from services that will associate them with mercenaries.”21 Indeed, some tragic occurrences that have happened in the past primarily either resulted from the necessity of self-defence, or were a result of tragic mistakes. One of them was the infamous “Baghdad Massacre” (16 September ) that involved Blackwater,22 when members of this PMSC killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square while escorting a U.S. embassy convoy. Of note, Western PMSCs are completely legal.

For their part, Russian PMCs, such as the Wagner Group, were created for diametrically- opposed reasons, and they operate in line with a different logic. Russian PMCs, de-jure non-existent and prohibited by the Russian Penal Code,23 should be viewed as a part of “Active Measures ”24: (a) a tool of Russia’s covert power politics in strategically important areas; and (b) “power economy” (silovaja ekonomika), “…a state-controlled system of coercion (including a reliance on limited-scale military conflicts, if necessary) aimed at realizing economic goals.” Therefore, one crucial detail should be noted: (il)legal status of Russian PMCs is not a coincidence – it is a reflection of their true purpose. At the same time, acts of violence accompanying activities of Russian PMCs are not coincidental/defensive. As rightfully noted by Jānis Bērziņš, “Russians, PMCs must be understood as mercenaries in the worst sense of the word,” whose main objective is to avoid the direct involvement of Russian armed forces.26

What is the Wagner Group?

Among Russian PMCs, the Wagner Group is the most prominent. Its emergence was by no means spontaneous. The Russian General Staff first entertained the necessity to organize PMCs for various “delicate missions abroad” as early as 27 Yet, it took no concrete steps in this direction. InBoris Chikin, one of the founders of the Moran PMC, lamented that the global PMC market was being divided between Western players and the lack of opportunities for Russian companies. In effect, a antiterror - orel.ru of the Wagner Group, the Slavonic Corps Limited (), was a PMC created by members of the Moran Group and sent to Syria to fight on the side of al-Assad. It was destroyed near al-Sukhnah in eastern Syria.28 Apparently, Slavonic Corps Limited was a ‘trial run’ of a more ambitious and better-organized project. Incidentally, one of its leaders, Dmitry Utkin (a retired lieutenant colonel of the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff, the GU), would later become a commander of the Wagner Group in Ukraine and Syria, where, playing a key role in capturing Aleppo, antiterror - orel.ru, he would later be antiterror - orel.ru with the Order of Courage during a gala held in the Kremlin.29

ZUMA Press, antiterror - orel.ru, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo/DWGGG

Aleppo, Syria, during the Syrian civil war, 3 April

The Ukrainian crisis played a pivotal role in emergence and the rise of the Wagner Group, whose actual emergence dates to Mayand the outbreak antiterror - orel.ru armed conflict in the Ukrainian Southeast, where the group would take part in all major engagements (the Battle of Luhansk Airport, the Battle of Debaltseve), subversive/terrorist operations (the Il shoot-down; provocations in the rear of the Ukrainian armed forces; intelligence gathering), and ‘quelling’ of the (pseudo-) Cossacks and local strongmen acting as ‘cleaners’ (chistilshiki).30 While in Ukraine, the group practiced some of the tactics learned earlier in Syria and used by Antiterror - orel.ru radicals, which, aside from operations in small and highly run dll as app error groups, (commensurate with general principles of antiterror - orel.ru operations that include sabotage, guerrilla/partisan warfare, antiterror - orel.ru, rapid penetration of the frontline and operations in the enemy’s rear), also included the employment of armoured jeeps/vehicles when attacking the enemy formations.31 The “Ukrainian chapter” of Wagner’s history had a crucial meaning, becoming a training polygon and a form of ‘marketing tool,’ advertising the group and its capabilities to third parties.

Ukraine accordingly became a springboard for the group towards much more economically lucrative missions in Syria. Still, operations in Antiterror - orel.ru also played an essential role in the transformation of the entity in terms of its composition, primarily reflected in the decreasing quality of its personnel. Between andaccording to various testimonies, the core of the group was indeed predominantly composed of highly skilled professionals with vast ‘hands-on’ experience gained in various regional conflicts. During this period, functions performed by Wagner could be, at some level, compared to tasks vested upon the Russian Special Operations Forces – a flexible, multi-functional force combining qualities of Spetsnaz and the armed forces.32 However, with a swelling in the rank-and-file of the PMC, the entrance requirements and training standards plummeted.33 Between andantiterror - orel.ru, the tasks performed in Syria by the group drifted away from military operations toward forceful seizure (“otzhim” in Russian slang) of oil- and gas-fields/facilities from the anti-al-Assad forces. Further, there is every reason to believe that, at least in part, the group started acting increasingly in concert with pro-Assad forces (uncoordinated, highly diverse and demonstrating not very good war-fighting qualities) and its coordination with the Russian side started to loosen. This transformation increased resentment from the side of Russian neo-conservative nationalists (such as Strelkov), who condemned the Wagner Group and the Russian government for betrayal of Russia’s national interests and of drifting away from Russia’s key mission (creation of the Novorossiya).34 Incidentally, one of such missions co-carried out by Wagner led to a debacle near Deir ez-Zor, where the group suffered its largest losses, due to the results of an aerial strike dealt by US forces.35

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Hassan Blal/Alamy Stock Photo/PGGKXP

What remains of the Deir ez-Zor suspension bridge, 11 August

In discussing the Wagner Group in Syria, one should make two observations. First, a common inaccuracy is that in Syria, “… the Wagner Group is often used as elite infantry.”36 Although this assumption might be somewhat applicable to the “Ukrainian chapter” of the Wagner history, this argument does not apply to its experiences in Syria. Close analysis of operations carried out by Wagner in Syria suggest the group antiterror - orel.ru performed the most arduous tasks in areas of maximum risk or danger. Alternatively, it served as an auxiliary force that assisted Russian regular armed forces – the SOF, on the ground, and the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) through coordination and terrain reconnaissance37 – to minimize casualties among Russian regular armed forces akin to Afghanistan and both Chechen wars. Indeed, according to various estimates, the official number of Russian contract soldiers (kontraktniki),38 who were killed in Syria in military engagements was significantly lower than any other party involved. This fact, even though much praised by the Russian military and pro-Kremlin information outlets, failed to attribute some credit to the Russian PMCs antiterror - orel.ru took part in the heaviest battles, antiterror - orel.ru. Unlike Russian PMCs, elite forces are typically used in high-precision operations – which is clearly visible in the work of the Russian SOF in Syria – and do not typically participate in potentially highly costly frontal attacks.39 The Wagner Group, however, while in Syria, was used as shockwave troops, which normally consists of tasks vested upon elite special forces.

The second aspect is related to the Deir ez-Zor disaster suffered by the Wagner Group in early in Syria. According to some experts, the defeat of the Wagner Group antiterror - orel.ru Deir ez-Zor might have resulted from an alleged disagreement in between Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the reported sponsor of the Wagner Group, antiterror - orel.ru. Antiterror - orel.ru, the inaction of the Russian Defense Ministry that led to the Deir ez-Zor massacre might have been deliberately staged “…to sacrifice the lives of the veterans who work for Wagner, in order to send Prigozhin a message.”40 However, the physical eradication of experienced veterans and, perhaps more importantly, giving the United States a reason to claim victory makes little practical sense, especially in light of Russia’s antiterror - orel.ru involvement in Libya. In effect, thorough investigations have demonstrated that in this debacle the major losses were suffered by the pro-Assad and pro-Iranian forces. By contrast Wagner occupied a marginal part of the overall advancing forces, and was unlikely to be the leading/coordinating force.41 Following this logic, this means that the Russian MoD ‘punished’ not Wagner per se, but Russia’s regional allies. This argument is not plausible. Most likely, antiterror - orel.ru, members of the Wagner Group fell prey to a combination of poor coordination and over-confidence that the US side would not use its military-technical capabilities to confront and to repel the attacker.42 Moreover, as argued by the reputable Russian journalist Petr Kozlov, the Syrian debacle may have had a serious impact upon the Russian ruling elite.43 Furthermore, the ‘punishment theory’ may be challenged by post developments, and by Russia’s increasing involvement in Libya. Specifically, Prigozhin was spotted during negotiations between Shoygu and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in November ,44 which resulted in the Wagner Group being sent to Libya to support Haftar’s Tripoli offensive, the Operation Flood of Dignity (April ).45 Another essential aspect is related to the issue of Russian military advisors (which combined legal advisors and members of the Wagner group) in the Central African Republic (CAR), antiterror - orel.ru were deployed to the country inas a part of technical-material cooperation between the CAR political regime and the Russian MoD.46 Neither episode could have been performed without the coordination of actions between leadership of the Wagner Group and the Russian MoD.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2DP7

A rebel fighter stands on a Russian-made Scud missile that was found in Junine, about 25 km southwest of Tripoli, 3 September The missile had been directed at the city of Tripoli.

The Wagner Group: Image and Reality

Between andthe Wagner Group has been spotted operating on three continents. In this regard, one important aspect should be mentioned: the growing discrepancy between the image of antiterror - orel.ru group (primarily created by Russian and Western media, based upon the group’s operations in Ukraine and Syria), and its actual capabilities. This argument gains more relevance in the light of the operations carried out by Wagner antiterror - orel.ru Libya with respect to the Operation Flood of Dignity47 and Mozambique. Specifically, despite the fact that Wagner fighters have been sent to Libya to support Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli,48 its results have fallen short of its declared objective. Furthermore, as reported by both Russian and Turkish sources, the Wagner Group suffered its largest losses in manpower since the Syrian debacle in early49 These losses have resulted in certain reputational damage. According to available information, following this failure, Russian mercenaries were withdrawn from the frontline zone,50 which might stem from a combination of factors.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CHNP6A

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Mozabique’s President Filipe Nyusi during a meeting in Moscow, 22 August

Yet another disappointment has befallen the group in the Sub-Saharan Africa, a region of growing importance to the Kremlin’s geo-political/economic calculations.51 Following the meeting between the President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi and Vladimir Putin in Moscow (22 August ) – when the African antiterror - orel.ru promised “lucrative contracts” and antiterror - orel.ru opportunities” for the Russian businesses in the country52 – Russian mercenaries were reportedly deployed in the Cabo Delgado province (northern Mozambique) to help the government in its up-to-date unsuccessful fight against locally-operating Islamic radicals.53 According to both Russian and Western sources54 in pursuit of this contract in Mozambique, Wagner ‘outcompeted’ leading western PMSCs, primarily due to an advantageous pricing policy and to good relations with the local political leadership. However, the initial excitement was soon replaced by the sobering effect made by the first military encounters with the local rebels, antiterror - orel.ru. Ambushed by antiterror - orel.ru radicals, Wagner reportedly lost several fighters, with up to twenty Mozambique official military also being killed.55 According to some unverified sources, this episode prompted the withdrawal of Russian mercenaries from Cabo Delgado.56 Indeed, these experiences have shown some structural weaknesses showcased by the private military contractors, as well as the fact that this tool, even though effective at the tactical/operative level, is unlikely to gain a strategic role in Russia’s military thinking.57 The main reason behind this assumption boils down to the following: in its actions, the Russian side is delegating PMCs with certain functions – such as military operations that they are not designed to execute, and for which they have no appropriate resources. These functions are typically performed by the regular armed forces, such as the SOF, which is specifically designed for such tasks.

Beyond Wagner: Russian Irregulars and the Western Alliance

Reflecting upon the range of challenges warning error on line php sablotron by NATO due to Russia’s use of PMCs, one essential aspect should be recognized: as the most well-known and notorious entity of its kind, the Wagner Group is neither the root of the problem nor the main peril. As it was convincingly demonstrated in Deir ez-Zor, Libya58 and Mozambique,59 the actual antiterror - orel.ru capabilities of the Wagner Group depend upon various conditions. One of them is the close cooperation with Russia’s regular armed forces, which secured its success in both Ukraine and Syria. Therefore, from a strictly military perspective, Russian PMCs should not be viewed as a supreme threat, antiterror - orel.ru those forces could act as ‘spoilers,’ distracting/disrupting actions of NATO/Western powers in zones of instability.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CX6REN

Another shot of armed men, antiterror - orel.ru, believed to be Russian servicemen, marching outside a Ukrainian military base outside the Crimean city of Simferopol, 10 March

Arguably, however, a much more serious peril emanates from ‘irregulars,’ –a broad array of forces that including PMCs, Cossacks, the Night Wolves,60 members of various military-patriotic organizations/societies, and ‘hacktivists,’–that could be used to provoke and destabilize situations. The main challenge stemming from antiterror - orel.ru of this group was, perhaps, best showcased during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Success of this operation in many ways was inseparable from actions of the irregulars that performed all the hp 9000s error e 0800 by preparing the ‘turf’ for the “little green men”62 – regular armed forces, such as the SOF and the Spetsnaz.63 Some elements of the ‘Crimean scenario’ could consist of exercises by Russia in other venues or theatres. One such potential areas is the Balkans, where Russia has been using covert operations since the earlys through proxy forces, and/or Latvia and Lithuania. Incidentally, during the Zapad strategic military exercises (14–20 September), Moscow used both local forces and the Don Army Cossacks as an auxiliary force64 on the territory of Kaliningrad oblast, which co-hosted the event. Even though this risk does exist and should not be neglected, it appears highly unlikely that Moscow would use the ‘Crimean scenario’ in or against countries that hold NATO membership. After all, the current operative theatre of Russian PMCs/irregular forces is either confined by the ‘borders’ of the post-Soviet area, or it extends to places classified as “gray zones.” This, however, does not mean that the risk should be excluded completely: Russia is likely to continue testing NATO and its allies through a string of provocations as a means to tackle cohesion of the alliance antiterror - orel.ru the resolve of its members.

REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/2CR9G25

Russian military vehicles on the move during the Zapad war games near the village of Volka, Belarus, 19 September

For this purpose, Moscow is already actively using irregulars&#;– primarily, the Night Wolves, Cossacks, various military-patriotic organizations, as well as ‘hacktivists,’ – to infiltrate, provoke, destabilize and stir up things in other regions/countries/places. Out of a large number of known examples, one must recall the role of Cossacks and PMC members, covered up by the Russian MFA, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in radicalizing the Serbian youth, which came to be known as the “Zlatibor affair” – an event that caused huge resonance in the country and required the personal involvement of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The incident revealed strong ties between the Russian MFA, Cossacks, the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs and members of some PMCs that had fought in the Donbass.65 Currently, with respect to the Balkans, Russia’s attention is diverted to Bosnia, Montenegro (where Russian agents already tried to carry out a military coup in ), and Serbia, which had refused to introduce any anti-Russian sanctions as a result of the unlawful annexation of Crimea. It is highly possible that even NATO/EU membership of the above-mentioned countries would not fully stop Moscow from using covert methods.

Rawf8/Alamy Stock Photo/2BNKFJB

NATO and EU flags waving on a blue-sky background.

The second concern is premised upon developments in Russia’s westernmost antiterror - orel.ru, the Kaliningrad oblast. Specifically, Kaliningrad-based Cossacks are actively establishing ties, primarily via joint para-military exercises, with The Slavic Union (Braterstwo Słowian) and The Movement for the Sovereignty of the Polish People (Ruch Suwerennośći Narodu Polskiego) – pro-Russian and anti-NATO -Ukrainian platforms.66 The direct impact of these ties should not be overrated, and yet, the collateral damage is unpredictable and might become more pronounced in the future.

The third concern relates to the Arctic region, an area of Russia’s strategic interests and massive expectations.67 As the noted French historian, sociologist, and political scientist Marlene Laruelle opines, the Arctic occupies a special place in Russia’s economic, geopolitical and ideological calculations.68 Following the Ukrainian Crisis, Russia began intensifying its efforts towards (re)militarization of the region. Russia’s strategy is on antiterror - orel.ru levels commensurate with an idea brought forth by a renowned Russian military expert, Vladislav Shuryghin “[I]n the Arctic region, you do not fight wars with armies and divisions.”69 Indeed, a closer look at Russia’s manoeuvres/exercises in the region show high antiterror - orel.ru of small and highly maneuvering formations – elements that are presumably seen by Russia as the main operative force in case of a limited-scale escalation in the region. Aside from military-related aspects, Russia’s actions in the region generate interest for yet another reason: by using a mix between facts and provocations and information operations.70

Conclusion

The emergence of Russian PMCs on the Ukrainian Southeast in and their subsequent (re)appearance in Syria () created a huge wave of interest toward this phenomenon among Russian and international experts, scholars, journalists, and policy makers. The initial veneer of the omnipotence and invincibility of Russian private military contractors was challenged in (Syria) and (Libya and Mozambique). Based upon these examples, it would be adequate to presume that the actual military potential demonstrated by Russian PMCs do not allow to classify this tool as a strategic element within the Russian toolkit. And yet, its importance/capabilities should not be downplayed – under certain circumstances and against specific enemies/adversaries this tool could and will be very useful. That said, we believe that the main danger to the Western alliance and, in particular, its partners, emanates from ‘irregulars’ that could be employed in various (both military and non-military) missions, acting – in the case ribbon error max 2011 a potential limited-scale military escalation or preceding events – as an auxiliary forces, which was demonstrated during the annexation of Crimea.

Therefore, we argue that in the short-to-mid-term prospect, main areas of employment of Russian irregular forces (including PMCs) will extend to the following three main areas. First, actual (para)military operations will likely be performed by Russian PMCs in resource-endowed and politically unstable countries in the Middle East, the Maghreb, the Sub-Saharan Africa and (potentially) South and Central America (Venezuela and Nicaragua) as well as countries of the post-Soviet space. The employment of these forces in/against EU/NATO member-states should not be expected in a short- and mid-term prospect. Second, provocations and ‘ground testing’ as antiterror - orel.ru means to test the resolve of the Western alliance – an element whose spread will extend beyond the above-mentioned area, including the Balkans, the Arctic region, and the European Union. While the actual impact of these actions should not be overstated – since Russia is unlikely to use offensive potential of irregulars (including PMCs) against EU and NATO members – the Western alliance must be cautious, since some provocations (especially with respect to the Balkans and the three Baltic States) might take place. Third, information-psychological operations as an integral part of the war of the new generation (Network-centric warfare) – an element that was demonstrated during the Crimean operation.71 That said, to understand better and perhaps even re-consider their role, potential areas of employment of Russian irregular formations (including PMCs) and their coordination with Russian regular armed forces, it would be valuable to thoroughly analyze the history of the Ukrainian crisis, paying special attention to the interim between January and February

One final aspect should be highlighted. Dr. Christopher R. Spearin of the Canadian Forces College argues that one way to curtail the activities of Russian PMCs is for the United States to place them “…in a normatively defensive context in which utilization is transparent.”72 This scenario, as confirmed by Anthony Pfaff and Edward Mienie of the US Army War College,73 looks at the problem of Russian PMCs from a Western perspective. Based upon the analysis of operative principles employed by Russian PMCs, whose functions and de-facto activities drastically differ from Western PMSCs, legal measures are unlikely to have any impact upon Russian PMCs socket error # 10060 other semi-state actors. Although activities of irregulars could be, to some and very limited extent, confronted by legal measures, PMCs could only be targeted by military measures. By inflicting substantial damage on these mercenary formations in ‘gray zones,’ two main results could be achieved. For one, the recruiting mechanism could be disrupted because the number of qualified recruits is likely to subside dramatically. For another, and most importantly, defeats of mercenaries could well repel third parties from hiring them in the future.

Notes

  1. “This Working Paper was funded by the Defence and Security Foresight Group which receives funding from the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program designed to facilitate collaboration and mobilize knowledge between the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, and academia and other experts on defence and security issues. Through its Antiterror - orel.ru Engagement Grants, collaborative networks, antiterror - orel.ru, scholarships, and expert briefings, MINDS works and collaborates with key partners to strengthen the foundation of evidence-based defence policy making. These partnerships drive innovation by encouraging new analyses of emerging global events, opportunities, and crises, while supporting a stronger defence and security dialogue with Canadians.”
  2. The most well known examples include the Livonian War ( – ), the Time of Troubles ( – ) and the colonization of Siberia ( – lates).
  3. Valery Gerasimov, “Po opytu Sirii: Gibridnaya voyna trebuyet vysokotekhnologichnogo oruzhiya i nauchnogo obosnovaniya&rdquo. Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kurier, no, antiterror - orel.ru. 9,at: sprers.eu; See also:  Frank Hoffman, antiterror - orel.ru, “Hybrid Warfare and Challenges,” Joint Forces Quarterly, no. 52,at: sprers.eu; Vladimir Rauta (): Towards a typology of non-state actors in ‘hybrid warfare’: proxy, auxiliary, surrogate and affiliated forces, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, DOI: /
  4. “Irregulyarnye voyska antiterror - orel.ru Rossiyskoy imperii,” sprers.eu, Accessed 2 Februaryat: sprers.eu¸Ñ€Ñ€ÐµÐ³ÑƒÐ»ÑÑ€Ð½Ñ‹Ðµ-войска-в-российской-имп/.
  5. Igor Eliseev and Aleksey Tikhonov, “V teni piramid,” in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, â„– (), 30 Septemberat: sprers.eu
  6. Sergey Sukhankin, “The Russian State’s Use of Irregular Forces and Private Military Groups: From Ivan the Terrible to the Soviet Period,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 12 Aprilat: sprers.eu
  7. Lavrenov S.Y. Sovietskii Soyuz w lokalnikh voinah I konfliktakh, antiterror - orel.ru. Artel, Moscow,
  8. “Border wars” were a series of conflicts between Libya and its neighbors, including Chad, Niger and Egypt that took place in the s–s. For more information, also see: sprers.euv, sprers.euev, Sovetskaya shkola Kaddafi: Kak I chemu nauchili armiyu Muammara Kaddafi sovetskie voyennye,  SUP Media sprers.eu: Internet-izdaniya, antiterror - orel.ru, at: sprers.eu
  9. Vladimir Voronov and Aleksandr Artemyev, “Sovetskaya shkola Kaddafi,” sprers.eu, 31 March ,  at: sprers.eu
  10. Aleksandra Turchaninova, “Veteran ‘Alfy’: Eltsyn nas nenavidel ilyubil…, ” available at: sprers.eu
  11. NCnews. “Sovershenno Dokumentalnoye Rassledovanije  sekretno-Spetssluzhby oligarhov.” sprers.eu, Projekt Sovershenno Sekretno, 10 Februaryat: sprers.eu?v=EUZorQLtIGU. See also Mark Galeotti. The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ).
  12. Sergey Sukhankin, “From ‘Volunteers’ to Quasi-PMCs: Retracing the Footprints of Russian Irregulars in the Yugoslav Wars and Post-Soviet Conflicts,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 25 Juneat: sprers.eu
  13. Igor Strelkov, “Kontrudar,” sprers.eu, 6 Januaryat: sprers.eu
  14. Mark Galeotti, “Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia,” in The Guardian, 23 Marchat: sprers.eu
  15. “Kratkaya istoriya chastnoy ochrany RF,” sprers.eu, 2 Juneat:  sprers.eu?start=1.
  16. NCnews. “Sovershenno sekretno-Spetssluzhby oligarhov.” sprers.eu, 10 Februaryat: sprers.eu?v=EUZorQLtIGU.
  17. Charles Gurin, “ROMAN TSEPOV, R.I.P.,” The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 93, 27 Septemberat: sprers.eu
  18. Sergey Sukhankin, “From ‘Volunteers’ to Quasi-PMCs: Retracing the Footprints of Russian Irregulars in the Yugoslav Wars and Post-Soviet Conflicts,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 25 Juneat:  sprers.eu
  19. Sergey Lyutykh, “Umru za Rodinu. Dorogo,” sprers.eu, February 1,sprers.eu
  20. Denis Korotkov, “Brodyaga, Sedoy, Wagner i Ratibor okruzhyli prezidenta,” sprers.eu, 21 Augustat: sprers.eu
  21. Ã…se Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll, “Russian Use of Private Military and Security Companies - the implications for European and Norwegian Security.” FFI Rapport no. 18/, CMI - Chr. Michelsen Institute, at: sprers.eu
  22. Phil Stewart, “U.S. troops in Iraq will need immunity: U.S, antiterror - orel.ru. chief,” Reuters, 2 Augustat:  sprers.eu . 
  23. Sergey Sukhankin. “’A black cat in the dark room’: Russian Quasi-Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) – ‘Non-existent,’ but Deadly and Useful,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 19, No. antiterror - orel.ru, Autumn
  24. Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and Enduring Legacy of the KGB (New York: Public Affairs, ).
  25. Aleksandr Ageev, “Silovaya ekonomika I smena mirovogo gegemona,” Strategicheskie prioritety, No. 2 (6) (), pp. 27–  
  26. Jānis Bērziņš. The Russian Way of Warfare (pp. 17–21), in: Current Russian Military Affairs. Assessing and Countering Russian Strategy, Operational Planning, and Modernization. SSI, Current Russian Military Affairs, Conference Executive Summaries. John R. Deni, (ed.), July
  27. Irina Malkova, Anton Bayev, “Chastnaya armiya dlya presidenta: istoriya samogo delikatnogo porucheniya Yevgeniya Prigozhyna,” in The Bell, 29 Januaryat: sprers.eu
  28. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Antiterror - orel.ru to Wagner Group and Beyond,”  in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 Decemberat: sprers.eu
  29. “Utkin Dmitrij Valerevich,” in Myrotvorets, 16 Decemberat: sprers.eu
  30. Sergey Sukhankin, “Unleashing the PMCs and Irregulars in Ukraine: Crimea and Donbas” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 3 Septemberat: sprers.eu.  
  31. “Intervyu rossiyskikh naemnikov Botvinyevykh: ‘Wagnera’ na Donbasse trenirovali nashy kadrovye voyennye iz ‘Vympela.’ Ryadovoy ‘Wagnera’ poluchal tysyach rubley,” sprers.eu, 18 May at: sprers.eu
    vagnera_na_donbasse_trenirovali_nashi_kadrovye_voennye_iz.
  32. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Special Operations Forces: Image Versus Substance,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 43, The Jamestown Foundation, 27 Marchat: sprers.eu
  33. Denis Korotkov, “Oni srazhalis za Palmiru,” in sprers.eu, 29 March at: sprers.eu
  34. Igor Strelkov (Girkin), “’Chastniki’ Chast ,”in  sprers.eu, 14 Julyat: sprers.eu
  35. While the accurate number is unknown, the most realistic number of Russian mercenaries killed should be seen closer to twenty men. For more information see: Christoph Reuter, “The Truth About the Russian Deaths in Syria,” in sprers.eu, 2 Marchat: sprers.eu
  36. Gostev, Antiterror - orel.ru, and R. Coalson, “Russia’s Paramilitary Mercenaries Emerge from the Shadows.” RFE/sprers.eu, 16 December at: sprers.eu.
  37. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,”  in War by Other Means, antiterror - orel.ru, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 Decemberat: sprers.eu  
  38. Sarah Fainberg. Russian Spetsnaz, Contractors and Volunteers in the Syrian Conflict. No.Ifri, Decemberat:sprers.eu
  39. Examples of Budyonnovsk and other follies committed by Russian armed forces during the First Chechen War should be attributed to the general state of disarray in the Russian army. For more information see: Yuri Demin. Bitva za Budennovsk. Spetsnaz Rossii. 31 Mayat: sprers.eu
  40. Kimberly Marten, “Russia’s use of semi-state security forces: the case of the Wagner Group,” in Post-Soviet Affairs,DOI: /X; Kimberly Marten, “The Puzzle of Russian Behavior in Deir Al-Zour.” in War on the Rocks, antiterror - orel.ru in sprers.eu
  41. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs in the Syrian Civil War: From Slavonic Corps to Wagner Group and Beyond,” in War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 18 Decemberat: sprers.eu
  42. Christoph Reuter, “The Truth about the Russian Deaths in Syria,” in sprers.eu, 2 Marchantiterror - orel.ru, at: sprers.eu
  43. Petr Kozlov, antiterror - orel.ru, “Putin zamenil rabochie poezdki na vstrechu s generalami. Vozmozhno iz-za Sirii,” sprers.eu, 13 Februaryat: sprers.eu
  44. Irek Murtazin, “Na etoy kukhne chto-to gotovitsya,” in Novaya Gazeta, 9 Novemberat: sprers.eu
  45. Samer Al-Atrush, “Libya’s Prime Minister Says Russia Mercenaries Will Drag Out War,” in Bloomberg, 14 November at: sprers.eu
  46. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia’s hired guns in Africa,” sprers.eu, 12 November ,  at: sprers.eu
  47. “Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s strongest warlord, makes a push for Tripoli,” in The Economist,  5 Aprilat: sprers.eu
  48. Samer Al-Atrush and Stepan Kravchenko, “Putin-Linked Mercenaries Are Fighting antiterror - orel.ru Libya’s Front Lines,” in Bloomberg, 25 Septemberat: sprers.eu
  49. Liliya Yapparova, “Oni sami tolkom ne znali, kuda edut,” in sprers.eu, 2 Octoberat: sprers.eu
  50. “Boytsy ChVK Wagnera pokinuli liniyu fronta v Livii,”  in sprers.eu, 11 Januaryat: sprers.eu
  51. Sergey Sukhankin, “The ‘Hybrid’ Role of Russian Mercenaries, PMCs and Irregulars in Moscow’s Scramble for Africa,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 10 Januaryat: sprers.eu James Sladden, Becca Wasser, Ben Connable, Sarah Grand-Clement. Russian Strategy in the Middle East. RAND Corporation,at: sprers.eu
  52. Edvard Chesnokov, “President Mozambika: Rossiya spisala 90% nashego dolga, my tsenim takih partnerov,” in sprers.eu, 21 Augustat: sprers.eu
  53. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia Prepares a Foothold in Mozambique: Risks and Opportunities,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue:The Jamestown Foundation, 15 October at: sprers.eu
  54. Pjotr Sauer, “In Push for Africa, Russia's Wagner Mercenaries Are 'Out of Their Depth' in Mozambique,” in The Moscow Times, 19 Novemberat: sprers.eu
  55. “Insurgentes Emboscam e Matam 20 Membros das FDS e cinco russos,” in Carta de Mocambique, 29 October at: sprers.eu
  56. “Nayemniki ChVK ‘Wagner’ otstupili iz Kabo-Delgado,” in sprers.eu, 25 Novemberat: sprers.eu
  57. Sergey Sukhankin, “Continuation of Policy by Other Means: Russian Private Military Contractors in the Libyan Civil War,” in Terrorism Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 3, antiterror - orel.ru, The Jamestown Foundation, 7 Februaryat: sprers.eu
  58. Sergey Sukhankin, “Mercenaries in the Desert: The Kremlin’s Libya Game,” in Fair Observer, 16 Octoberat: sprers.eu
  59. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Mercenaries Pour Into Africa and Suffer More Losses (Part One),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 6, The Jamestown Foundation, 21 Januaryat: sprers.eu; Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Mercenaries Pour Into Africa and Suffer More Losses (Part Two),” 28 Januaryin Eurasia Daily Error 22 mounting ext3 Volume: 17 Issue: 10,  The Jamestown Foundation, at: sprers.eu
  60. Matthew A. Lauder. “Wolves of the Russian Spring’: An Examination of the Night Wolves as a Proxy for the Russian Government.” In Canadian Military Journal, Vol. antiterror - orel.ru, No. 3,pp.
  61. “Dary volkhvov pribyli v Krym,” in sprers.eu, 31 Januaryat: sprers.eu
  62. Mark Galeotti, “‘Hybrid War’ and ‘Little Green Men’: How It Works, and How It Doesn’t,” E-International Relations, 16 April at: sprers.eu
  63. Sergey Sukhankin, “Unleashing the PMCs and Irregulars in Ukraine: Crimea and Donbas,” War by Other Means, The Jamestown Foundation, 3 Septemberat: sprers.eu#_edn
  64. “Donskie kazaki na Baltike,” in Vsevelikoe Voysko Donskoye, 12 September squid transparent ssl_error_rx_record_too_long, at: sprers.eu
  65. For more information, see Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs, War Veterans Running ‘Patriotic’ Youth Camps in the Balk ans (Part One),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue:The Jamestown Foundation, 24 October antiterror - orel.ru, at: sprers.eu; Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian PMCs, War Veterans Running ‘Patriotic’ Youth Camps in the Balkans (Part Two),” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue:The Jamestown Foundation, 31 Octoberat: sprers.eu
  66. “Politicheskiye obshchestvenniki Polshy ustroili pod Kaliningradom perfomans,” in EurAsia Daily, 26 August at: sprers.eu
  67. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia Prepares Ambitious Economic Strategy for Arctic Region,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 18, The Jamestown Foundation, 11 Februaryantiterror - orel.ru, at: sprers.eu
  68. Marlene Laruelle. Russia’s Arctic strategies and the future of the Far North, antiterror - orel.ru. M.E. Sharpe, Inc.,
  69. Alexandr Kruglov, Aleksey Ramm, “V Arktike budet zharko: voyska ispytayut Kraynim Severom,” in Izvestiya, 18 Decemberat: sprers.eu
  70. Sergey Sukhankin, “Russian Spetsnaz in Norway: ‘Fake News’ Versus Facts,” in Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue:antiterror - orel.ru, The Jamestown Foundation, 9 Octoberat: sprers.eu 
  71. Viktor Murakhovskiy, “Krymskaya operatsiya – ochevidnyj marker kachestvenno novogo urovnya razvitiya Rossiyskoy armii,” in Natsyonalnaya Oborona, accessed antiterror - orel.ru Februaryantiterror - orel.ru, at: sprers.eu
  72. Christopher R. Spearin. “Russia’s Military and Security Privatization,” in The US Army War College Quarterly. Vol. 48 No. 2 (), pp.
  73. C. Anthony Pfaff, and Edward Mienie. Strategic Insights: Five Myths Associated With Employing Private Military Companies. Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), 5 April

Publication

Article by Akram Kharief / RLS

Libyasecuritywar

The private military company Wagner Group is the most decisive player in the military strategy of the Libyan national antiterror - orel.ru, headed by Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Acting as a Russian foreign legion without the constraints of international or Russian law, it has become an instrument of power play for Vladimir Putin. Before addressing Wagner Group, it is wise to understand the roots of Russian institutional mercenarism and the reasons why Wagner is the product of a long process that has always skirted the edge of legality in Russia.

As a key figure connected with Wagner, Yevgeny Pirigozhin has become an icon of Russian Private Military Companies (PMCs). Antiterror - orel.ru short, Pirigozhin, (known as &#;Putin&#;s chef&#;) is an oligarch, exclusive supplier of catering to the Kremlin, and a personal friend of Vladimir Putin. As a consequence of his connections and money, and with the help brutus proxy pre-authentification error Dmitri Utkin, the former special forces officer in charge of military affairs he suggested that the Russian President create Wagner to deal with the Kremlin&#;s secret military operations. In reality, the legal and historical background of the Russian security world is far more complex and dates back to the post-Chechen War period. The use of PMCs in Vladimir Putin&#;s Russia that emerged in recent years antiterror - orel.ru not new but built on centuries-old Russian practice.

The use of proxy groups to enforce internal laws or in military campaigns is a tradition in the world&#;s largest country that was once an empire, antiterror - orel.ru. Russia has always made exceptions to the &#;state monopoly of force&#; concept. In its perception of governance, the central state could delegate this monopoly to auxiliary ethnic or religious groups provided that they paid full allegiance to the Prince/Czar/State. The Cossacks are a perfect example of this.[1]

The term &#;Cossack&#; can be traced back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and originally referred to socially constructed groups of men living as nomadic traders, mercenaries and pirates. It did not refer to an ethnic or religious group but rather a form of social identity. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Cossack groups became a threat to newly developing states by attacking settlements on their borders. They also represented potential military resources for the Moscow state, which was gradually developing and expanding as new territories were conquered and the state needed to defend and establish them as Russian territories. The Russian state eventually negotiated a contract with the Cossacks, granting them special rights over natural resources, trade, and a certain amount of administrative autonomy in the areas where they established themselves in exchange antiterror - orel.ru settling and defending these territories on behalf of the state. In particular, they acted as a barrier to Muslim expansion in present-day Ukraine and southern Russia. This status vis-à-vis the Tsar persisted until the Bolshevik Revolution because the Cossacks fought on more than one side. Some fought in independent Cossack armies, others fought for the Whites, others for the Reds, and many fought for all of them. From onwards, they were subjected to a repressive campaign that killed more than one and a half million of them, and then suffered Stalin&#;s vengeance for having decided to fight for Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Today, Vladimir Putin makes extensive use of the Cossack militia dpkg returned an error code 2 rule in Southwest Russia or to fight alongside the independence fighters in Donbass and Crimea. Inthe Russian President signed a law entitled, &#;On the State Service of the Russian Cossacks,&#; which gave them the status of a state-supported militia with a government salary. This law granted more thanofficially registered Cossacks in Russia the right to perform various functions usually controlled by the state. Functions such as defending border regions, guarding national forests, organizing military training for young cadets, antiterror - orel.ru, fighting terrorism, protecting local government buildings and administrative sites, and providing the vague service of &#;defence of social order.&#; Another example of the use of proxies in the foreign wars of contemporary Russia was the deployment of Muslim Military Policemen (Chechens and Ingush) to Syria from to fight, occupy, and administer the security of cities &#;liberated&#; by the Russian army. [2]

Describing the evolution of Russian PMCs and the process that led to the media coverage of the Wagner Group

Following the collapse of the USSR, the Red Army was in total ruin, fragmented between many newly-created countries with no budget, no leadership, and drained of human resources. Entire units were demobilized, such as the Alpha unit, one of the two special intervention groups of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The first war in Chechnya would eventually deplete the latter and many soldiers, specialists and officers found themselves in the international labour market in the early s. At antiterror - orel.ru time a South African company, Executive Outcomes, was recruiting pilots and aeronautical engineers to operate the helicopters and cargo planes used for its operations. Meanwhile, many former soldiers worked as bodyguards and security guards in hundreds of usb hdd current pending errors count security companies that were created in Russia in the early s.

One of the first security companies to export military know-how was Antiterror-Orel. Created in by former members of the special forces in the city of Orel south of Moscow, it initially had the status of a non-governmental training school. The school trained Russian companies that were active abroad on security measures. After the second Iraq war, these mainly oil and mining companies asked Orel to send protection teams to their sites. This dispatch of men was the starting point for the creation of several private military companies operating in Iraq, antiterror - orel.ru, such as Top Rent Security, Redut-Antiterror and especially Moran Security Group, antiterror - orel.ru, a company that still exists and is active in maritime anti-piracy and protection.  At the height of the Syrian civil war inMoran Security Group (MSG) was called in by the government of Bashar al-Assad for a mission to protect and retake oil facilities in antiterror - orel.ru Syria.

Since private military activity is illegal in Russia, the owners of MSG created a new Hong Kong-based company called Slavonic Corp that sent men to fight in Syria between Among these men was Dmitri Utkin, a former officer belonging to the 2nd Special Forces Brigade of the GRU (Russian military intelligence) in Pskov. He distinguished himself on the ground in Syria by mastering operational art and being a good commander. His radio call sign at the time was Wagner, in homage to the German composer Utkin was passionate about.

Back in Russia, he created a training centre in in Molkino in the Krasnodar region not far from the Georgian border. The school gradually turned into a military base adjacent to the one occupied by the GRU 10th Special Forces Brigade. This is where the Wagner Group was born.

The company received political and economic support from the Kremlin during its involvement in the war in the Donbass from [3]

 

History of Wagner in Libya

The fall of Muammar Gaddafi was very badly received by Vladimir Putin, who was Prime Minister of Russia in At the time, he openly criticized his President, Dmitri Medvedev, for not having applied the Russian veto against the UN resolution imposing the No Flight Zone in Libya. His return to the helm of the Russian Federation was marked by Moscow&#;s renewed interest in Libyan affairs and a slow rapprochement with Libya&#;s new strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar.[4]

The first Antiterror - orel.ru mercenary appearance in the region came in early with a demining contract awarded by the Libyan National Army to the Russian military company RSB-Group in the port complex of Benghazi, the country&#;s second-largest city.[5]

The Wagner Group first appeared in May during the LNA-led offensive to retake the city of Derna, the last stronghold of Islamist militias and the Islamic State in eastern Libya. In Marchleaders of the private military antiterror - orel.ru mentioned a forthcoming dispatch of troops to Libya to journalists of Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty)[6]. On November 7,during his visit to Moscow, Marshal Khalifa Haftar met with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Yevgeny Peregozhin. It was not until March that detailed reports of the presence of mercenaries from Wagner in a base in Benghazi surfaced together with their participation in the various operations of the LNA. It is also reported that an amount of million dollars was paid by the United Arab Emirates to cover Wagner&#;s operations in Libya. This Gulf state, which in the past deployed men and mercenaries and has an airbase in Al Khadim in eastern Libya, has always denied funding the Russian private military company.[7]

Wagner&#;s real involvement began after the LNA&#;s general offensive to reconquer Libya on April 3, Initially timid during the first phase, which covered the South, its antiterror - orel.ru became more acute after the capture of Sebha and the offensive on Tripoli. From September and the arrival of the first Turkish military advisers error 5899 metdata file missing of damaget[-1] Tripoli to assist the National Accord Government (GNA), the fighting became more intense and Wagner began to count its first casualties. The use of attack drones by Turkey reversed the course of the battle for Tripoli during September and October Sources, including the Russian opposition media, antiterror - orel.ru, Meduza, reported 35 dead in bombings[8]. In el Sebaa, 65 km south of the capital, Wagner mercenaries left many clues to their presence before retreating.

On December 12,antiterror - orel.ru, Khalifa Haftar announced that he had given the order to launch the &#;final battle&#; for control of Tripoli. He declared, &#;The zero hour has struck for the large and total assault expected by all free and honest Libyans.&#; Turkey responded to this declaration by sending massive numbers of troops, vast amounts of equipment, and thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Tripoli and Misrata.[9] This signalled the withdrawal of the NLA to the south and its defeat in Tripoli, which culminated in the ANL&#;s loss of the al Watya airbase and the fall of Tarhuna, the last pro-Haftar stronghold in the west, on June 5, The defeat marked a change of strategy for Wagner. Their new mission was to stop the Turkish army and the GNA forces from advancing eastward, to defend Sirte and the Libyan Oil Crescent. This apple 3194 restore error apple tv evolved during and into the construction of a defence line separating Tripolitania from Cyrenaica and Fezzan.[10]

 

The fighters, their salaries, and their motivation

Wagner Group is estimated to have had up to 3, men under its command in Libya the majority of whom are Slavs, mainly from Russia, but also from Belarus, Ukraine, the autonomist regions of Ukraine (DNR, Novarossia, Crimea), Albania and Serbia. According to Meduza&#;s[11] investigation, soldiers are offered a salary ofrubles per month (US$3,) and up to double that for officers and specialists (gunners, snipers, sappers, antiterror - orel.ru, anti-aircraft operators, drone pilots and aviation personnel). They are not always highly trained or ex-special forces personnel, many are basic operators with a simple military background.

Recruitment is done by word of mouth, or through ex-military associations. Recruiters canvass potential candidates with little information about the location or nature of the contract. Once recruited, they undergo coordination training at the Wagner training centre near Krasnodar or at the Vesley farm near Rostov na Dunu, which is part of the Russian army.

 

Alliances, equipment, tactics and location

On May 26,Russia sent fighters, bombers and helicopters to Libya, antiterror - orel.ru. Mig fighters and Sus transited through the Russian base of Hmeimim in Syria. AFRICOM accused Wagner Group of operating the aircraft in offensive missions in Libya[12]. These aircraft are not the only heavy equipment received and operated by Wagner in Libya. According to several sources and documents, the Russian PMC also received at least one Pantsir S1 air defence vehicle, different from those used by the LNA and Wagner and &#;on loan&#; from the United Arab Emirates. To protect its choice errorlevel cmd, Wagner used P Spoonrest radars in addition to the LNA radars.

For their armoured ground movements Wagner&#;s &#;musicians&#; use armoured antiterror - orel.ru manufactured in Russia by a company belonging to the Yevgeny Pirigozhin group of companies. The vehicle is called a Valkyrie, Chekan, Shchuka or Wagner Wagon[13], and is the MRAP built on a URAL chassis by the company EVRO POLIS LLC. This same company signed protection contracts with the Syrian state in the past and it possibly provides legal cover for its activities abroad.

According to Oryx Blog, Wagner uses a wide range of weapons and equipment and has also carried out repairs to the Libyan army&#;s weapons. Among the weapons imported by Wagner in violation of the embargo on arms deliveries to Libya are[14] MRAP GAZ Tigr-M, D mm guns, and MSTA mm Howitzers. More specific to the region, in terms of small arms, Wagner&#;s troops use AKs and especially the Osiris T sniper rifle, which is completely new to the region.

Wagner operated a few drones during its operations, namely, Zala Es and Orlan 10s. For its operations in Libya, Wagner&#;s mercenaries use Antonov 28 aircraft belonging to two air transport companies, Jenis Air and Space Cargo, both named by the UN Panel of Experts on Libya for possible arms embargo violations. For foreign travel, Wagner&#;s men and equipment use Russian rd Flight Wing cargo planes with mandatory stops at bases in Hmeimim, Syria, or Sidi Berrani, Egypt.

Wagner also used prohibited weapons and techniques during its withdrawal from southern Tripoli insuch as MON, 90 and anti-personnel mines, which are prohibited by the Ottawa Convention.  Some reports indicate that as they fled Tripoli in the summer ofWagner&#;s musicians booby-trapped numerous buildings and even left behind a booby-trapped Teddy bear, as confirmed in a report by Amnesty International.[15]

 

Who are Wagner&#;s allies on the ground?

Wagner&#;s mercenaries have always found it difficult to collaborate with other Libyan militias or with the brigades of the Libyan National Army. The only actual collaboration between Wagner and a Libyan militia was with the Kaniat (7th brigade of the LNA)[16] during the evacuation of Tarhuna.

Wagner&#;s musicians enjoyed working with the Sudanese Janjaweed because of their fighting spirit. They helped the Russians stop the GNA&#;s counter-offensive towards Sirte in September There are between 3, and 6, Sudanese fighters in Libya who are based near al-Jufrah and the headquarters taken by Wagner in late [17] Another military force stationed near Wagner that collaborated with the LNA and the Russian company was the Chadian militia FACT (Le Front pour l&#;alternance et la concorde au Tchad) [18] between April and April Its ground offensives were much appreciated by Wagner.

However, in Maythe Russians made a strategic decision to reinforce Wagner with Syrian fighters. So, Moscow commissioned Colonel Alexander Zorin, who was the head of the reconciliation commission in Syria to recruit mercenaries. According to Foreign Policy magazine, Zorin, better known in Syria as &#;the godfather&#; of the reconciliation agreements between the regime and rebels in Ghouta, Deraa and Quneitra, had visited southern Syria in early Aprila region considered particularly fertile ground for Russian recruitment, not only because of endemic poverty but also because of the lack of support from any other regional or global power. Many rebels in the region had already pledged allegiance to Assad in July after the U.S. denied them additional aid. In cooperation with Assad&#;s intelligence officials, Zorin reportedly began negotiations with several rebel groups to send them to fight in Libya.

More than 3, Syrians joined Assad during this period for salaries of US$1, for troops and US$5, for commanders.[19]

 

What are their techniques on the ground?

Wagner is somewhat avant-garde when antiterror - orel.ru for battles and wars or ensuring orderly withdrawal. In the 404 error joomla 2.5 of Libya, they actively participated in the preparation of the offensive against Tripoli. The rationale behind their involvement was to prepare for a transition from a period of peace to a period of crisis. Their expertise in Libya was, for example, acts of sabotage, antiterror - orel.ru, elimination of key personnel, antiterror - orel.ru, intelligence gathering and target identification. They played a key role in the war against Bayraktar drones by identifying their storage locations or landing runways antiterror - orel.ru be bombed by the LNA.

Wagner may have deployed up to 2, antiterror - orel.ru, fighters to Libya and they were organized into four companies. The main one was a special forces company for reconnaissance in force, a tank company, a combined artillery group (MSTA, D, BM Grad), antiterror - orel.ru, intelligence units, antiterror - orel.ru, logistics units, and a battalion headquarters. Compared to Syria, Wagner in Libya had little tank experience but has had to increase its capabilities in war aviation and air defence. After Juneand Wagner&#;s withdrawal to al-Jufrah, a military engineering capability was integrated to build a line of defence cutting Libya antiterror - orel.ru half. Militarily, Wagner now deploys the equivalent of a consolidated battle group.

 

Political and media influence

Russia and Wagner played a very important role politically and media-wise in the defence of Khalifa Haftar. From a political engineering perspective, Wagner also established and maintained contacts with Saif al Islam Qaddafi after his release from prison. The contacts with Saif al Islam began at the turn ofreports the Russian media Planeta.[20] Prigozhin delegates met at least once with Gaddafi in person and also arranged phone conversations with him, antiterror - orel.ru. The meeting took place in Zintan, a city in western Libya in early One of the documents states that this was at a secret location.

The report of the Russian delegation on the meeting with Seif on April 3, (the date of the beginning of Haftar&#;s offensive), is particularly interesting. The speaker describes the circumstances of the conversation as Gaddafi being constantly distracted by watching the news about Haftar on television and ending with recommendations for further steps. The filming of incriminating videos on Haftar by Prigozhin&#;s forces and posting them on social media networks was suggested.

One of the architects of this attempt at Russian political interference was Maxim Shugaley[21]. On the morning of May 17,he was arrested together with his interpreter, Samer Sueifan. They spent 18 months of detention in atrocious conditions in Tripoli. Sugaley, who was 53 years old at the time went to Libya, antiterror - orel.ru, officially as a &#;researcher and expert&#; for a &#;research project&#; launched by the &#;Foundation for the Protection of National Values&#;, a Moscow-based organization linked to Prigozhin. The chairman of the foundation&#;s board of directors, Alexander Malkevich, is under U.S. sanctions for his role in an alleged operation run by Prigozhin.

Shugaley was accused of secretly meeting with political figures, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. These meetings drew the attention of Libyan intelligence services that seized documents on laptops indicating interference in the Libyan elections. He had also conducted numerous opinion polls to feel the pulse of the street in Tripoli and other Libyan cities. In Tripoli, he was accompanied by another Russian political expert, Alexander Prokofiev, who had shortened his stay, thereby escaping arrest.

A known agent of influence, Shugaley had tried to sway the antiterror - orel.ru election in Madagascar in favour of a pro-Russian candidate. Antiterror - orel.ru being released inhe will be involved in the presidential election in the Central African Republic and even be part of the Russian delegation destined to meet the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in August. He will conduct more than a hundred interviews with Afghan political figures. Another soft power channel developed by Wagner in Libya is the media and social networks.  InThe Stanford Internet Observatory identified numerous traces of Russian and Wagner involvement in antiterror - orel.ru media in Libya.[22]

Our analysis of social media posts targeting Libya provides one of the first known assessments of its apparent expansion into online social influence campaigns. Similar to its actions elsewhere in Africa &#; such as its involvement in Madagascar &#; the Wagner Group seems to be hedging its bets by supporting multiple candidates. The posts reviewed indicate, in support of previous reports, antiterror - orel.ru Russia is also supporting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. All site administrators are in Egypt along with at least one additional administrator in another country. Wagner also favours channelling local and regional information in large sparsely-populated countries where it is very difficult to move from one region to another. The group also financed the relocation and modernization of former state-owned (under Gaddafi) al-Jamahiriya television[23], which remains a very popular medium in Libya. Once again, it was to Egypt, Wagner&#;s home base, that the studios of this television station were transferred.

 

Outlook

On 13 DecemberEU foreign ministers decided to impose sanctions on the Russian private military contractor Wagner as well as eight individuals and three entities linked to the group[24]. These sanctions also affected Dmitry Utkin, the alleged military commander of the Wagner Group. The EU Council press release states that &#;the Wagner Group has recruited, trained and sent private military operatives to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, plunder natural resources and intimidate civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law.&#; At the same time, there were reports of the evacuation of Wagner&#;s mercenaries to Syria and Russia. Libya specialist, Jalel Harchaoui, believes that this is disinformation after a fairly quiet for Wagner in Libya but that it is not about to leave any time soon. Following a slowthe Russians in Libya are likely to turn up the heat, especially given the postponement of the Libyan presidential election to

 

[1]   Anna Borshchevskaya. &#;Russian Private Military Companies: Continuity and Evolution of the Model&#;, Foreign Policy Research Institute, antiterror - orel.ru, December 18,sprers.eu

[2]    Åse Gilje Østensen and Tor Bukkvoll, &#;Russian Use of Private Military and Security Companies &#; the implications for European and Norwegian Security&#;, FFI Rapport 18/, CR Michelsens Institutt. September 11,sprers.eu

[3]New America, antiterror - orel.ru, &#;Tracing Wagner&#;s Roots&#;, sprers.eu

[4]     Clifford J Levy and Thom Shanker. &#;In Rare Split, Two Leaders in Russia Differ on Libya&#;, New York Times, March 21,sprers.eu

[5]     Maria Tsvetkova, &#;Exclusive: Russian private security firm says it had armed men in east Libya&#;, Reuters, Aerospace and Defense, March 10,sprers.eu

[6]Radio Svoboda. March 7, sprers.eu

[7]    Amy Mackinnon and Jack Detsch, &#;Pentagon Cd boot error 0x73 acer UAE Possibly Funding Russia&#;s Antiterror - orel.ru Mercenaries in Libya&#;, FP, November 30,sprers.eu

[8]    Liliya Yapporova, &#;A small price to pay for Tripoli Between 10 and 35 Russian mercenaries have been killed in the Libyan Civil War. We identified several of them&#;, Meduza, October 2,sprers.eu

[9]    Jason Pack and Matthew Sinkez, &#;Khalifa Haftar&#;s Miscalculated Attack on Tripoli Will Cost Him Dearly&#;, FP, April 10,sprers.eu

[10] CSIS, Twitter, July 1,sprers.eu

[11]Meduza, &#;As Meduza found out, recruiters are gathering groups of mercenaries in Russia for a &#;business trip to Donbass&#. What they will do there is unknown&#;, December 22,sprers.eu

[12]United States Africa Command, New evidence antiterror - orel.ru Russian aircraft active in Libyan airspace&#;, Stuttgart, Germany, Jun 18,sprers.eu

[13] Denis Korotkov, &#;Our pround Ural does not surrender to the enemy&#;, Novayagazeta, July 11,sprers.eu

[14] Christiaan Durrant, &#;Tracking Arms Transfers By the UAE, Russia, Jordan and Egypt to The Libyan National Army Since &#;, Oryx, March 23,sprers.eu

[15] Amnesty, &#;Retaliatory attacks against civilians must be investigated and investigated and stopped&#;, Amnesty, June 5,sprers.eu

[16]US Antiterror - orel.ru of the Treasury, November 25,sprers.eu

[17] Mourad Teyeb, Twitter, May 20,sprers.eu

[18] Frederic Bobin, &#;Death of Idriss Deby: southern Libya, troubling rear base for Chadian antiterror - orel.ru Le Monde, April 22,sprers.eu

[19] Anchal Vohra, &#;It&#;s Syrian vs. Syrian in Antiterror - orel.ru, FP, May 5,antiterror - orel.ru, sprers.eu

[20] Planeta, antiterror - orel.ru Chef and Cook Investigation into how Russia is involved in the civil war in Libya&#;, Planeta, 09/12//News, sprers.eu

[21] Jared Malsin and Thomas Grove, &#;Researcher or Spy? Maxim Shugaley Saga Points to How Russia Now Builds Influence Abroad&#;, Wall Street Journal, Oct.5,sprers.eu

[22] Shelby Grossman, Daniel Bush, Renee DiResta, &#;Evidence of Russa-Linked Influence Operations i Africa&#;, Stanford University, Internet Observatory, White Paper, published 29 October,sprers.eu

[23] Michael Weiss and Pierre Vaux, &#;Russia&#;s Wagner Mercenaries Have Moved into Libya. Good Luck With That&#;, Daily Beast, Sep. 28,sprers.eu

[24]   Hans Von Der Burchard, &#;EU slaps sanctions on Russian Mercenary Group Wagner&#;, Politico, December 13,sprers.eu

 

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