The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia

St. Petersburg Sends Contractors to Syria

Russians working for Hong Kong contractor discovered fighting Syrian rebels.

A Syrian rebel group claims that it has ambushed and killed a group of Russian mercenaries who may have been working for a Chinese security contractor. The jihadist fighters from an Al Qaeda affiliate “Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)” claim to have killed the mercenaries in a battle near Homs. At least one of the mercenaries, however, has been videotaped alive and well, and is living back in Russia.

The mercenaries reportedly worked for the Slavonic Corps, a contractor registered in Hong Kong that operates:

“…in high risk areas, in particular in areas of military actions where actions of the Company itself and of its employees are rather deterrent than attacking so they allow some preventive options. These measures should be necessarily interpreted in favor of primary military forces of the country, according to the general order [sic].”

According to documents published below, the Slavonic Corps had signed an agreement with the Moran Security Group, which is, “an international group of companies offering premier security, transportation, medical, rescue, and consulting services. ”

Below is a translation from an article published on Fontanka, one of the most popular and most respected newspapers from St. Petersburg. We have also translated a more recent article published by Fontanka. It says that the mercenary group was working with the head of Moran Security Group, FSB lieutenant colonel in the reserve Vyacheslav Kalashnikov. The FSB, therefore, were aware that the group was sending Russian fighters to Syria. However, the mercenary group was shut down and several mercenaries were arrested upon their return to Russia.

UPDATE: We have posted the latest update from Fontanka, The Last Battle of the “Slavonic Corps”: The story of the Russian mercenaries who went to war against Syrian rebels.

- Ed.


Rumors about armed Russian citizens taking part in the Syrian conflict on the side of Bashar Assad turn out to be true. Fontanka has confirmed this in the course of verifying information about the death of Russians who had supposedly gone to war on a contract with a Hong Kong company. The surprise is that the recruitment center turned out to be in St. Petersburg, and the Russian mercenary killed in Syria turned out to be a soldier who was alive and working for a private security company on the 9th day after the notice of his death.

In the last 10 days of October, a number of foreign and Russia media outlets reported that Russian mercenaries were fighting on the side of Bashar Assad in Syria. Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham [ISIS] reported a successful attack on the “kefirs” in the province of Homs, during the course of which about 100 enemies were annihilated. As the rebels claim on their web pages, among those murdered were several fighters from Russia, the name of one of whom was confirmed: Alexei Malyuta from the city of Abinsk in Krasnodar Krai. In confirmation, a photo and documents proving Malyuta’s membership in the armed  company of Moran Security Group and his contract with a Hong Kong private military company Slavonic Corps Limited.

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The American TV show The Blaze inquired about the number of Russian mercenaries in Syria.  The Ukrainian press was outraged at the cover-up of the incident in the Russian press.  Meanwhile, commentators doubted the authenticity of the information, noting that the contracts didn’t look like real ones, and seemed fake.

Moran Group: We Are Not Involved

The Moran Security Group ID supposedly taken from the body of the mercenary killed then prompted a simple inquiry. A Fontanka correspondent contacted a representative of the company. The editors of Fontanka had contacts among the leaders of Moran Security Group, well known in Russia and abroad as a security firm; journalists had constantly been in touch with the firm in the last year. We will recall that in October 2012, a guard ship the Myre Sea-Diver belonging to Moran Security Group was seized in Lagos in Nigeria by local Navy forcesthe crew was completely released only in October 2013, so Fontanka took an interest in the fate of our sailors.

One of the directors of Moran Security Group , Alexei Badikov, whose signature is on the ID, explained that Alexei Malyuta, in 2012 and early 2013, really did work at the company, and took part in operations to free ships from threats of pirate attacks, but then resigned. The Hong-Kong based Slavonic Corps Limited did not have any relationship to Moran Security, and Moran Security did not carry out any activity on the territory of Syria.

Hong Kong-St. Petersburg

The attempt to contact Slavonic Corps led to the banks of the Neva River instead of South East Asia. Although the first company was registered on 18 January 2012 in Hong Kong, Sergei Kramskoy, whose permanent residence is in St. Petersburg, is listed as its director. It is not hard to establish that Sergei Kramskoy heads simultaneously two St. Petersburg companies with the name Slavonic Corps, founded in January and April of 2012. The only founder of both companies is the St. Petersburg resident Sergei Sokharev. A Fontanka correspondent found his telephone number [and made the call.]

“Tell me, please, are the Slavonic Corps companies owned by you connected in any way to the Slavonic Corps Ltd. in Hong Kong, which sent mercenaries to Syria, or with the Moran Security Group?” asked our correspondent.

“No, they are not connected at all. Why have you decided that?” said Sokharev.

“We supposed that they might be connected since these companies with the same name are headed by the very same person, Sergei Kramskoy, and founded at approximately the same time. Furthermore, as Syrian rebels report, the ID of the company Moran Security was found on the mercenary Russian,” we said.

“They are not connected at all. I don’t know anything about Hong Kong, and Kramskoy was fired from the company Slavonic Corps. The company Slavonic Corps, Ltd. is my own project, and is not connected to Syria or the Moran Group,” said Sokharev.

“Could you tell us the telephone number of Sergei Kramskoy?” we asked.

“Well, I don’t know, I’d have to ask the president, Vyacheslav Vasilyevich…”

“Do you mean Vyacheslav Vasilyevich Kalashnikov, the president of the Moran Security Group?”

“Yes.”

“So the Slavic Corps, Kramskoy and the Moran Security Group are somehow connected?”

“No.”

In order to explain the contradictions, Sergei Sokharev offered to meet the next day in person and promised to call back. So far, he hasn’t called back.

No one answered the telephones indicated on the web site of the Slavonic Corps. The site has a description of the company’s activity “The private military company Slavonic Corps was created by professional soldiers and officers in the reserve who have large practical combat and command experience… Only officers in the reserve work at Slavonic Corps, professionals of the highest quality, possessing unique military skills, and also having experience working in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eastern Africa, Tajikistan, North Caucasus, Serbia, and so on.”

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Also indicated was that Slavonic Corps signed the International Code of Conduct of Private Security Providers (IcoC).

Once Again, Moran

After reviewing the IcoC site, a reporter confirmed that the code really was signed by Slavonic Corps, Ltd. On 1 June 2012.

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The location of the company was shown as St. Petersburg. The deputy general director , Boris Chikin, signed on behalf of the company.

Boris Chikin is a famous man. A St. Petersburg resident, he is one of the best experts in practical shooting, the author of a manual on training for body-guards. He is also one of the founders and heads of the Moran Security Group. Boris Chikin replied to a reporter’s call:

“Boris Georgevich, can you explain what the company Slavonic Corps Limited does?” we asked.

“I don’t have any connection whatsoever to that company,” said  Chikin.

“But don’t you hold the post of deputy general director of the Slavonic Corps and didn’t you sign on 1 June the International Code of Conduct of Private Security Companies?” we asked.

“There was some kind of strange story there. I was asked to do it, and that’s it. Neither I nor the Moran Security Group have any relationship to the activity of the Slavonic Corps,” said Chikin.

Fontanka has no grounds to doubt the truth of Boris Chikin’s words. In the final analysis, the fact that Slavonic Corps, Ltd. is registered at the address: no. 5, Aleksandr Blok St. at the Baltic Shooting Center, whose director is indicated on reference sites as Boris Chikin, is perhaps a coincidence. Just as the almost identical wording of descriptions of job vacancies at Moran Security Group and Slavic Corps on web sites:

Credit:  www.icoc-psp.org
Credit: www.icoc-psp.org

The Elusive Recruiter

Sergei Kramskoy managed to remain elusive. Our sources at Moran Security told us that they knew of such a person, although he did not work in their company, they had seen him and talked to him but they didn’t have his phone number. Sergei Sokharev, who, according to the Unified State Registry of Legal Persons is the single owner of the companies headed by Kramskoy, was also unable to find his telephone number. The web master of Slavonic Corps’ site would not reveal the contact information and name of his client. The head of the AB Group personnel agency who recruited people for Slavonic Corps explained that of course he had Serge Kramskoy’s phone number, and promised to share it. He asked us to call back later and then turned off the phone. Sergei Kramskoy has not answered his home telephone.

Documents Shown to Fighters are Authentic

Even so, Fontanka managed to confirm that Alexei Malyutka’s ID and his contract with the Slavonic Corps in Hong Kong were authentic, and that Malyuta himself was really in Syria in October 2013 and was carrying arms. His brother Sergei, with whom journalists were put in touch with the help of the Moran Security Group, told this to a reporter.  But to our surprise, Alexei  Malyuta himself turned out to be alive and well.  During the phone call with the Fontanka correspondents, the brothers were celebrating his return and the 9th day since the report of his own death [according to the Russian custom]. The brother handed Alexei the phone and he wished everyone to celebrate his 9th day.

Sergei Malyutka, acting head of the security group in Syria, agreed to answer several questions. But he was terse.

“Sergei, tell us, in October 2013, did you make a trip to Syria?” we asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“On a contract with which firm?”

“Slavonic Corps.”

“Did everyone return?”

“Yes.”

“What jobs did you perform?”

“Guard and defense of economic facilities of the Syrian Republic. The point was to free the sub-divisions of the Syrian army from these duties, so that they could take part in the battle against the bandits,” said Sergei.

“Did you and your colleagues take part in clashes?”

“Of course not.”

“How did it happen that some of Alexei’s documents wound up in the possession of representatives of the opposition?” we asked.

“They were simply stolen. The guys went to the store to buy groceries. A backpack that was left unattended for a short while was stolen,” he said.

Skeptical journalists were left not completely satisfied with the conversation and asked Alexei Malyuta to send a more reliable proof of his existence on this earth in order to publish it in Fontanka.ru.

Here is his reply: (see the video in a pop-up window)

Fontanka does not dare to reproach the men for a certain relaxation after returning from a battle zone.

Note:
According to information obtained by Fontanka.ru, at the present time, all the security guards who went to Syria at the end of September 2013 on contracts with Slavonic Corps, Ltd. have returned to Russia. The short stay of their tour of duty was caused, according to our information, by the failure of the hosts to fulfill their financial obligations, which caused problems with the housing and feeding of the fighters from Slavonic Corps. The contract was broken and the employees recalled.