The independent Russian TV channel TV Rain has discovered a new Russian private military contractor in Syria.
Yevgeny Shabayev (R) with supporters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Photo by Myrotvorets
Wagner, the Russian private military company (PMC) which has
gained notoriety recently for its reportedly major losses in a clash with US
forces in Syria, now has some “serious” competition, the independent Russian television channel TV Rain reports.
The following is a translation by The Interpreter of an
article published by TV Rain July 5.
A serious competitor has appeared to the private military company Wagner. TV Rain has discovered that the new private military company
Patriot, presumably related to the Defense Ministry, has been taking part in
combat actions in Syria at a minimum since the spring of 2018.
During preparation of reporting for “Russia’s Military
Draft Board,” a source in the market for security services; an officer of
the Defense Ministry; and representatives of veterans’ organizations told a TV
Rain correspondent about the existence of Patriot. The military company is
mentioned along with Wagner PMC in an appeal to the authorities (a copy of which has been obtained by TV Rain) signed by Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov (Ret.), Vladimir Petrov,
head of Honor and Motherland, an international civic organization, and Yevgeny
Shabayev, chairman of the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly. All three
confirmed to TV Rain that they know of the existence of Patriot PMC.
The appeal contains a demand to define the legal status of Russians
who have served in combat in a PMC, which is planned to be sent in the near
future to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Supreme Court, and the
president, says Shabayev. The authors warn of an impending crisis in the
veterans’ movement; for three years now, complaints have been coming in to the
All-Russian Officers Assembly from people wounded in battle in Syria who have
not received “social, rehabilitation and economic support” from the
government due to the lack of a legal status from PMC employees.
Sources in the veterans’ organizations link the new PMC to
the Defense Ministry. Patriot is made up of regular Russian army servicemen,
“Mainly professional citizens are hired there who, according
to our information, are still serving in the Defense Ministry,” he says. These are
both acting specialists of the Main Directorate of the General Staff; military
lawyers; and soldiers of the Special Forces Operations, adds Lt. Gen. Ivashov.
A Defense Ministry officer, comparing Patriot with the
Wagner group remarked that Patriot pays more and has better combat assignments.
According to Shabayev, “depending on specialization, the pay may reach
400,000 to 1,000,000 rubles [US $6,400 to $16,000 per month]. The job takes a
month or two; there aren’t longer contracts here.” The Patriot commanders,
Shabayev surmises, may get a percentage of the deals between Patriot and the
contractors for its services.
A source in a veteran’s organization said that Wagner and
Patriot competed for a contract related to security for gold miners in
the Central African Republic. According to the source, Wagner got the contract
in the end (there have been media reports on the existence of PMC soldiers in
The military companies also fight and work in Syria.
“If Wagner more often takes combat assignments, Patriot is more involved
in security for government leaders,” the source added.
As the appeal from the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly
indicates, Patriot is not the only new PMC.
“There are other companies
which have come out on the market — we don’t know their exact names, but we
know they are going to Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Brunei. Now there is a whole
complex of consultations for African countries,” says Shabayev.
One PMC without a name is guarding the construction of a
Russian base in Burundi, a source in the Defense Ministry told TV Rain. Two
hundred specialists — security, geologists, engineers, builders — coordinate
their operations with the Foreign Ministry, the Military and Space Forces (VKS)
and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Andrei Kebkalo, head of the Ukrainian
PMC Omega Consulting Group also mentioned the Russian security project in
Burundi in an interview with TV Rain.
“There is nothing surprising in the fact that the
military wants to stand out, to create some sort of companies, and start to earn
money on what they are used to,” says Anton Mardasov, an expert of the
Russian Council on International Affairs.
“But the replication of such
groups is creating legal chaos. How will this be formulated? We don’t have
private military companies. The companies are formed as private security
companies involving in military consulting, and they can only do something
abroad,” he said.
The Defense Ministry did not respond to an inquiry from TV