19 August 2019

“Putin’s chef”- the advocate of all Assad’s regime oil fields

Sergiu Medar

There is no clear legislation in Russia on Private Military Companies. In 1992, it was issued a law referring to security and protection companies, as well as to private detectives. These are subordinated to National Guard, founded in 2016, also subordinated to Kremlin. Security and protection companies are getting a functioning license that can be issued or withdrawn by the direct authority structure.

Image source: Mediafax

Private military companies in Russia

Private military companies (PMC) have emerged in Russia starting with 2000, way later than in the West. The most famous and active companies are: RSB-Group, Moran Security Group, Mar and Redut Antiterror, Antiterror-Orel. All these companies are recorded.

RSB-Group is, now, one of the most important PMC in Russia. Oleg Krinitsin, former FSB officer is the CEO of the company. The company participated at many UN protection and support missions. Within the UNRWA missions, it provided, for example, logistic assistance for goods’ assurance sent to Palestinian refugees from Syria. It has also conducted mine clearance missions in Libya, in Benghazi.

Moran Security Group, led by two former marine officers, has participated to piracy combat actions in Aden Gulf.

Mar and Redut Antiterror, founded in 2014, has developed a series of humanitarian missions in Donbass.

Antiterror-Orel has participated to mine clearance activities in Serbia, in Nis airport area. All these companies are showing their support for Kremlin’s policies. At the same time, they do not forget to underline that they are not developing fight missions.

Kremlin’s mercenaries- Wagner Group

Russia’s government is often planning fight missions which, for different reasons, it does not want to be officially involved. To that end, it was created Wagner Group. It is not recorded as a PMC, not even at the bureau of internal revenues, and its address is an off-shore location. It does not have any legal coverage for its activities.

Wagner was founded by Dmitryi Utkin, following the American PMC model: Academy (former Blackwater) or DynCorp. Utkin was commander of the 700th Spetsnaz unit, belonging to GRU. The group has between 3600 and 5000 fighters, their number being different depending on the number of contracts or received missions.

Wagner’s founder is Evgheni Prigozin, a prosperous business man, one to be close to Putin. He is on the 13 Russian citizens list sanctioned and accused, in February 2018, by the US Justice Department for the involvement in the 2016 US electoral presidential campaign.

The famous business man started his businesses by ensuring Kremlin’s catering. It is noteworthy that Prigozin is the leader of the Internet Research Agency Company, called: “Trolls Company”, which was involved in the electoral company for the US presidential elections, by providing “fake news”. It is a different method for Prigozin to deliver services to Putin.

In 2016, through Evro-Polis company that he owns, Prigozin signed a contract with the Syrian government to ensure the protection of production installations and oil and gases refining in the exchange of 25% profit from oil products’ sale.

Mercenaries belonging to Wagner Group have worked in Moldova and Georgia to support Kremlin’s political interests. They are, most likely, participating in fight missions in Libya and, depending on events’ evolution, they could also be in Venezuela.

Wagner was involved in fight missions in South-East of Ukraine, as well as in Syria, together with Assad’s government forces, in the fights for the liberation, in February 2018, of Palmyra, as well as in fights that ended with the failure of the governmental forces, for the reconquest of the oil field from Tabiyah from rebellious forces’ hands.

In Deir Ez-Zor province, Wagner lost around 200 fighters. According to the initial planning, the Russian air forces had to ensure the air coverage for the troops belonging to Wagner. This support never came, hence, the confrontation ended with mercenaries’ failure.

According to a study on the Private Military Companies, elaborated in July 2013, by Nathaniel Reynolds, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the “green men”, from Crimea, were Wagner fighters.

According to a study, elaborated across the Strategic Research of the Military School from Paris, whose author is Emmanuel Dreyfuss, although Russia’s Minister of Defence denies any interference in Wagner’s company military operations, there are information according to which its leader, Dmitry Utkin, was decorated, in Kremlin, in December 2006.

Wagner’s company actions were, many times, developed in coordination with army’s regular missions, wherewith, according to the mentioned study, they are exercising and training. Mercenaries are training in a polygon belonging to the 10th Spetsnaz Brigade in Motkino, close to Krasnodar.

Having such a big number of fighters subordinated to Wagner Group’s military leaders, this company has become a true army, which made everyone realize that such operations are slowly privatizing the warfare.

Private armies are changing military doctrines

In Russia’s Military Doctrine, elaborated in 2014, within the threats chapter, are mentioned the “activities developed by foreign military companies, close to Russia and its allies’ borders”. The same document mentions “the participation of irregular armed groups and private companies in armed conflicts” as the main characteristics of the current conflicts”.

In an article published in 2013, general Valery GHerasimov, the chief of Russia’s Armed Forces General Staff, when presenting his perspectives on the current nature of armed conflicts, from analyzing how Western states acted in conflicts from Libya, or the ones from the Arab spring, he concludes the following: “…in Libya, Private Military Companies were used, on a large scale, their participation being essential…” The Russian leader thinks that their participation modifies conflicts’ concepts that should be learned in military academies.

In 2012, Putin, then prime-minister, was saying that PMC are “a tool to get the national interests without authorities’ direct participation”. After Russian leaders’ positive position, from 2014 to 2016, there were many attempts to create a legislation to that end. All attempts were refused for being unconstitutional.

In the press conference held for 2018 New Year’s Eve, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, was asked what he thinks of ISIS fighters capturing the Wagner fighters, Grigory Turcanu and Roman Zabolotny, who were, most likely, killed by terrorists in 2017. He admitted that the fighters belonged to a PMC and that “it is necessary to define the legal base, so that these people to be able to act legally and get protection”.

Russia sees private security cooperation as a diplomatic way of reaching its foreign policy goals. Similar to it is Wagner’s company participation to troops’ training and assistance activities from Sudan (2017), with 200 trainers, and the Central African Republic (2018), where have participated hundreds of mercenaries. These missions were followed by the visits of these states’ presidents in Moscow. Also to support the Russian diplomacy in Africa was the participation to Zimbabwe, Madagascar or South Africa’s political campaigns.

Using private armies to reach Kremlin’s political objectives can lead to concerning conclusions for world’s stability. By using these methods, for now, any former Soviet space country can get destabilized, but also those in the African space. Imposing a firm national and international legislation is how they can control the phenomenon.

Those studying conflicts’ evolution should bear in mind this new methods of conducting diversions, sabotages, democratic elections influence, coup d’états, but also large intensity military conflicts.

Translated by Andreea Soare