Story of PMC «Wagner»
Some of the processes that are taking place in the sphere of international relations are becoming important factors influencing the internal political situation Russia. These external factors are superimposed on two main internal factors that started military-political crisis in Russia:
1. The war in Ukraine that brought aggravation of conflict between the forces that demand the revival of the Russian Empire, on the one side, and the liberal pro-Western group that seeks to preserve the current regime and integrate Russia back into the world system dominated by the USA and Western Europe.
2. The struggle between elite clans for the post of the President of the Russian Federation that got out of the Kremlin’s control. Wartime made the Russian military important actor in political struggle, and the influence of the armed forces is intensifying with every day of the war in Ukraine.
In the previous article, I discussed both of these factors in detail (see — The military-political crisis in Russia. Causes and factors of influence » Valery Morozov (valerymorozov.com) ). Now, I invite readers to analyze the factor of international influence that was reflected and manifested itself in “Prigozhin’s rebellion”. For this, it is necessary to know the PMC Wagner’s history and understand the reasons that forced the Kremlin to create outside the Russian legislation this unique extra-state military corps.
I would like to start with one interesting episode in my life that happened in 2013, one year after I moved to the UK…
«Would you like to start a private military company?»
My conflict with top management of the Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation, not the first and not the second in seventeen years of my work in the Kremlin, but apparently (as I hope) the last one, went into open in 2009, after special operation was carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs under the supervision of the FSB. In the history of Russia, it was the only special operation, so far, in relation to the Kremlin authorities…
Those were the days when in Sochi, at the construction of Olympic projects, “bags of money opened”, and general contractors and government customers began to actively inflate prices for construction and share profits that sometimes significantly exceeded the real construction costs and existing state prices. There was impression that the Olympics would write everything off…
At one of the facilities, on the “Primorsky” building of the sanatorium “Sochi” of the Directorate of the President, where my company Moskonversprom was the general designer and general contractor, the management of the Construction Department of the Directorate, my customer, decided to replace my company for another contractor and by changing contracts and contractors almost double the amount of funding.
The “trick” was that we had already built the new building after completely demolishing the old one, and received about 80% of the money allocated from the state budget. Only some engineering work and interior decoration remained unfinished. The remaining funds were enough for that work, and I didn’t need additional funding. There were no legal ways to double the funding, and it was clear that I would not agree to this.
Photo: Building «Primorsky» of the sanatorium «Sochi» of the Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation
However, my customer wanted to receive almost a billion rubles additionally for the construction of the building that was built. To do this, it was necessary to remove my company from the site, and to “construct” the new building once more, supposedly specifically for the Olympics.
To get that opportunity, new tender was organized for «carrying out additional work», for which neither design nor calculations were done. The amount was determined — 850 million rubles.
From my sources, I knew that decision had been made to sign new contract with other company. The deputy head of the Department of Construction Vadim Leshchevskiy was responsible for this scam. Before pushing me out, he decided to take money from me, including for the upcoming tender, though he knew that I was not going to get new contract.
At my request the special operation was carried out by the Police and the FSB, but criminal case was not initiated, and Leshchevsky was not arrested. The evidence, video and audio materials, were used for blackmailing the Kremlin authorities. That was the first and the only one attempt to blackmail the Kremlin.
Leshchevsky had to pay 100 million rubles to operatives, who all later were fired, and some of them imprisoned, including General Denis Sugrobov, Head of the Department for economic crimes of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who, by the way, exactly this month, in July 2023, was released from prison, maybe, to join the PMC “Wagner”….
My company was removed from the construction site, and the contracts were given to company «Harwinter» that was officially registered in the former Yugoslavia, but was controlled by Leshchevsky. Additional money has been allocated…
However, in 2010, I managed to get direct order by President Dmitry Medvedev, bypassing his Administration, to Prosecutor General of Russia to initiate criminal investigation. However, even the President’s decisions very frequently do not work in Russia, and it required me to get the second order by Medvedev to start the case
The criminal case was initiated, but dragged on until the re-election of the President, the time of absence of power in the Kremlin. Then the criminal case was buried, and I was pushed out of Russia. Anything can happen in times of absence of power in Russia.
At the end of December 2011, I came to the UK for the New Year celebration, and that time I received a call informing me that it became too dangerous for me to return to Russia, at least for some time. My Russian foreign passport was running out, and I had to apply for political asylum. That was how I settled in England…
In 2013, there was another call on my mobile British number. The man, who called me, introduced himself and said that he was former military officer and lived in Spain, that we had mutual friends who recommended him to contact me, that he would be in London soon and would like to meet with me to discuss some ideas. I agreed.
When we met at the railway station and went into the restaurant to talk, the man said that he was colonel and served in the GRU …
— But don’t worry. I’m not going to put anything in your glass of beer. I don’t have any polonium with me,” — he joked.
— Well, I think it would be rather ridiculous to call my mobile and fly to London with polonium to meet me in English pub at the railway station, — I joked back.
So, during the conversation, the former colonel made me that offer …
— Would you like to create a private military company?
— For what? — I didn’t understand. — I’m not going to fight any war…
In order to understand why I could have received such an offer, and why, although I was surprised, I didn’t take it as the nonsense of a madman, I must go back to 1979-1980 …
After graduating from the Institute of Asian and African Countries, Moscow State University in 1976, I was sent to work as an intern at the Indian department of the Novosti Press Agency (APN). In 1977, I was recognized as the «best intern» and awarded one year training in the Information Department of the Soviet Embassy in India. However, unexpected problem arose…
I was invited for interview at the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and there in a high office I was asked one question that I gave the wrong answer. It wasn’t that I was hiding something. Moreover, the story that I was asked about could only have positive impact on my future. The problem was that I didn’t understand the question.
During my studies, I worked part-time at the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship with Foreign Countries (SSOD). I worked as interpreter and escort. Among those with whom I had to work with were, for example, the Dalai Lama, leaders of communist organizations from developing countries, trade union delegations from capitalist countries, including the United States. The question was about that job.
After my answer to the question, there was no attempt to clarify. I was just released, and the Party Committee of the APN ordered to investigate and clarify. The Party Committee figured it out to the satisfaction of everyone, including mine, but as punishment, education and breeding, so that in future I could think faster and act clearly and decisively, apparently on the initiative of the curator from the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU, who looked like a former military man, instead of APN internship in India, I was drafted into the army for two years.
I had to serve not two, but three years. First, for about eight months, I served as interpreter at foreign military training center on the Afghan border, in the city of Mary, Turkmenistan, and then, in December 1978, just before the New Year, I was sent to India as interpreter in the Soviet Military Group in the Indian Air Force, at the air base in the city of Chandigarh located at the foot of the Himalayas, 360 kilometers from Delhi towards the Indian-Pakistani border.
Photo: Soviet officers and military specialists upon their arrival in India. December 1978, New Delhi. I am standing second from the right (in case, anyone failed to recognize me)
At the Indian Air Force base in Chandigarh, there were stationed up to twenty Soviet engineers, most of them from Kaunas, Lithuania, and five military interpreters. The Soviet specialists trained and assisted the Indian military in servicing Soviet MIG-21 and AN-12 aircraft, as well as MI-8 helicopters. The group was commanded by Colonel Pavel Alyoshin.
Few months later, some of the specialists and translators, having served their time, were replaced, including the deputy Commander of the Soviet Military Group, head of the group of translators. In the group, I was the only non-professional military man of two-year service period, but, to my great surprise, I was appointed deputy Commander of the Group and head of the group of translators.
My duties included, among other things, contacts and relations with the command staff of the Indian Air Force and the air base, communication with the Soviet Embassy, reporting, financial matters, as well as organizing trips to Chandigarh of representatives of the higher command, including from the USSR Embassy in Delhi.
That drew me into one of the most significant espionage scandals of the Soviet era, from which I managed to come out “clean”, largely thanks to the lesson learned from the curator from the Central Committee of the Communist party. When I felt that something was spinning around me and strange things happening, having no understanding what was happening, I began to do everything extremely carefully and clearly, from organizing all contacts to financial affairs (I was the only one in the Group who had bank account in Indian bank and received the salaries of the officers of the group and money for other expenses).
I managed to get out not only of that spy scandal involving two top Soviet commanders, but also of clashes between the KGB, the GRU and the CIA, between the army group in the Embassy and the GRU, between the commander of the group of Soviet troops in India, Lieutenant General Alexander Bogdanov, the Hero of the Soviet Union, who was suspected of espionage in favor of the CIA, and General Dmitry Polyakov, commander of the Soviet military intelligence (GRU) in India, who was the CIA spy.
Bogdanov was framed by Polyakov, who was trying to survive after the KGB received information from Aldrich Ames, Soviet spy in the CIA, that one of the Soviet high-ranking army officers working in India was spying for the CIA and was the most valuable spy active that time in the USSR.
Pictured: Aldrich Hazen «Rick» Ames
When Ames leaked information about the spy in the Soviet embassy in India, Bogdanov and his officers, including me, who was responsible for Bogdanov’s trips to Chandigarh and his meetings with Indian Air Force commanders, came under investigation by the GRU and the KGB. Thanks to the efforts of Polyakov, suspicions fell on Bogdanov, he was framed, deprived of all awards, including the Hero of the Soviet Union received during the Second World War, arrested and demoted. His life was destroyed, but he was not imprisoned or executed.
Dmitry Polyakov framed Bogdanov but let me stay clean even though I was deeply involved in the story and had no idea what was really going on. I saw only strange things happening to me in India. I felt the danger looming over me, completely unaware of the extent and level of this danger.
Polyakov betrayed the GRU and the Soviet Union, shocked by the death of his son, who was sick and in need of surgery. The best chances for his son to survive were in the United States, where it was already known how to treat his son’s very rare illness, and at that time Polyakov was in Washington. Medical care for all Soviet citizens was free at home and abroad, and the GRU paid for his son’s operation, but the first operation was unsuccessful. Polyakov’s son needed second operation. The GRU authorities refused to finance the second operation, and Polyakov’s son was taken to the Soviet Union. The operation in the Soviet military hospital was also unsuccessful. His son died, and Polyakov, by the way, Ukrainian, decided to take revenge on his own superiors, bureaucrats from the GRU and the party, and offered his services to the CIA.
Later, thinking about that story, I came to the conclusion that Polyakov could easily destroy my life, but he decided to take me clean out of that story, because I reminded him of his son, because his son could become like me, young officer, who at the age of twenty-five served abroad in position of lieutenant colonel…
In the photo: Dmitry Polyakov, war hero (center), among the GRU officers before his trip to the USA
From India, Polyakov returned to the Soviet Union. He refused to leave for the USA, despite the threat of exposure. He was later arrested for treason, sentenced to death and executed…
Photo: Detention of GRU General Dmitry Polyakov
At the most culminating moment of this spy story, Bogdanov gave the order to extend my stay in India for another year, but the same night, two GRU colonels from the embassy, who supervised our group, arrived in Chandigarh and took me to Delhi for a flight to the USSR. Later, it turned out that this departure allowed me to avoid the final stage of the fight between the special services that I had very little chance to survive.
When I returned to the APN, I was only twenty-six years old, senior lieutenant with two years of service abroad in position of lieutenant colonel, my whole life checked by the Soviet special services.
When I came to the Tenth Department of the General Staff Headquarters to receive my civil passport, I asked the major in the personnel department:
— What was going there in India? What was going on around me? You can tell me now. Anyway, I’m already a civilian…
— Listen, Valery, — he told me. – You have excellent characteristics. You are alive and everything is fine with you. Take your passport and move on. Leave the army and forget everything like a bad dream…
“Live in Africa, and in Russia everything will be fine for you”
After more than thirty years since my return from the military service, in London, the GRU colonel, smiling in front of me, — very similar to those two colonels who unexpectedly arrived in two army jeeps at night in Chandigarh, informed me that the order to extend my stay in India was canceled and took me to Delhi for a flight to Moscow, — and that colonel proposed me to return… But I did not understand where I should return… To the army? No. For service? But what sort of service?
Of course, I knew about the existence of Western private military companies that carried out all sorts of tasks that the command of the armed forces of these states and the corporations that contracted them, set before them, but about the existence of a Russian private military company I heard nothing about.
I was not particularly embarrassed that it was the GRU officer, who made the offer. After the army, I worked close to GRU officers abroad and in Moscow, but we had different fields of activities. In APN, they were treated with caution, known for their rough methods of work, and yet I kept good relations with them.
I understood that the GRU was recommended to contact me not by the Ministry of Defense. Because the idea of Russian PMC could not be born in the ministry of defense. It was clear that the recommendation was given from the Kremlin and special services that were more closed to the Kremlin compared to the GRU. In my life, I often had to intersect with officers of the special services, especially in the post-Soviet period, when I worked in the Kremlin. I developed good personal relations with some, including the commanders of the Federal Service of Guards, including the Kremlin Commandant’s Office. After seventeen years of working in the Kremlin, I considered some of them my friends, and they considered me their friend. It was clear to me that after the story of the “diamonds of the Yeltsin’s Family in Angola”, it was possible for the GRU to create private military company only with permission and at the initiative of the Kremlin and its secret services. The GRU could only be executor, one of the curators of PMC, but the main curator had to be the Kremlin and the Service of Guards.
I was tempted to ask him about who recommended me, but I didn’t ask. Life taught me to avoid doing some things that were not necessary.
— What will this company do? — I asked. — And what will I do?
— You will be the director, and officers will act and solve problems, — he said. — You will live in Africa, and everything will be fine in Russia. All problems will be removed.
I thought that he talked about control over deposits and facilities in Africa that once belonged to the Yeltsin Family, and also, probably, about some interests and business of Russian corporations.
(About the diamond business of the Yeltsin Family in Angola and the role of this business in the conflict between the Yeltsin clan and the Ministry of Defense, in particular, the Minister of Defense Rodionov, as well as about Yeltsin’s decision to appoint Vladimir Putin as his successor, I wrote in “Russian Army and U-turn in Putin’s Policy » Валерий Морозов (valerymorozov.com) , and Russian Army and U-turn in Putin’s policy, part 2 » Валерий Морозов (valerymorozov.com) )
The offer was interesting. The money had to be big, the business was reliable. My problems in Russia would be solved easily. But to go to Africa to protect and to control diamond mines?! It didn’t particularly appeal to me…
There were two facts that influenced my decision not to agree. First, I did not understand and did not feel the real potential of the idea. That potential is being revealed only now. Perhaps, if it would become clear to me that it was not about just private military or security company, as I thought, but about different project, a power-political one, that could not be understood, comprehended, formulated, designated right away, and if I agreed to learn more, then I would have looked into it with more interest. But I did not understand and, probably, could not understand its potential at that time…
Secondly, before the arrival to the UK and later in London, I began to actively write my memoirs and analytical articles, and I really didn’t want to give up “writing”. I have been busy all my life, and I had little time for “writing”. Even while working in APN, writing articles was sideline for me, although I became the first APN journalist in Soviet times, who was offered to be paid for materials by the “anti-Soviet”, “monopolistic” media. In the post-Soviet period, I did not write anything at all, except for my signature. Even letters of my Company were written by secretaries. According to the offer received, I had to quit writing again and go to command security guards in Africa… I thought that if I do this, then, most likely, I would never forgive myself for this …
Where PMC Wagner came from
However, this incident forced me to pay attention to reports on Russian PMCs, although I did not have much interest in this topic until 2014, when it became clear that units, resembling PMC, although modified, began to operate in the Donbass and Crimea. These were parts of the “polite green men” and “vacationers”, who appeared in the Crimea and secured Russian control over the peninsular.
These military units could be called private military companies with big inconsistency and discrepancy.
Well, if I were director of that PMC, officially I would be the owner. I would bear legal responsibility for affairs, primarily financial and organizational, and also deal with political issues, relations with local authorities and governments, maintain contacts with the Kremlin and special services, as well as corporate customers. But I wouldn’t be the real owner…
Above me, I would have had unofficial, but powerful Board of Curators from the special services, the Presidential Administration and Foreign Department of the Directorate of the President, and that Board would actually manage my PMC: give instructions, provide funding and coordinate activities, control my actions and accept my proposals that I would make.
Below me, there would be also Board of Military Commanders, like the Knights of the Round Table of King Arthur, and those Commanders would be responsible for implementing decisions, representing interests of the relevant state structures, including the GRU, FSB, FSO and SVR, and would report all the necessary information over and bypassing me, coordinating all actions with their curators. Is that what is called «private company»?
In modern world many names and concepts have lost their original meaning and cover up completely different entities, because, firstly, it is beneficial for politicians and state bureaucrats, and secondly, because there is no one to analyze what has actually been created in the last decades and to give definitions that would reflect essences. Among the names and concepts that do not reflect their own essence, there are “private”, “state”, “public” properties, “charity” company, and all sorts of other «non – governmental” organizations … Names and entities exist in different realities, and we live without realizing that we see them through the Looking Glass.
In the Kremlin, this “matryoshka”, the Russian doll, that hides behind concept “private”, like behind colorful scarf, was first created in the early 1990s. They called those private business owners very simply – “koshelyok”, «wallets» or “purses”. Most of the oligarchs were created by the secret services or by the Communist party and state bureaucrats as their «wallets». Most of my problems in the Kremlin, since 1994, were connected precisely with the fact that I refused to become a “wallet”. And the Kremlin people themselves told me about that, and that’s why I was respected.
Who was Berezovsky? Wallet. All his fortune was created by Aleksandr Korzhakov, Head of Yeltsin’s Security Service, and Mikhail Barsukov, the Director of the FSB and friend of Korzhakov. Without them, Berezovsky would have perished in prison or in the woods in Siberia in the early 1990s. The Wallet-Berezovsky silently performed his functions for several years, giving out from “his” business to Korzhakov and Barsukov, and through them to the Yeltsin Family, all the money that they needed, and he used to give it out without arguing or discussing.
Then, having established close relations directly with the Yeltsin Family, with the help of the same Korzhakov, the Wallet-Berezovsky framed his «masters» and slipped out of their hands. He, like other «wallets» who called themselves oligarchs, taking advantage of weakness of Yeltsin and the regime, felt free and decided that they would remove Yeltsin, install a puppet and begin to rule Russia. They did not even understand that Putin was never “a puppet”, that he was planted on to them in such a way that they decided that the idea to make Putin the President of Russia came to their own minds. Putin, having come to power, began to put them in their proper place, in the place of «wallets». Those who did not agree to stand in their place were sent to prison, to cemetery, or, who were lucky like Berezovsky, first to London…
«Wallet» is easy to control by Master precisely because «wallet» is forced to do whatever Master tells him, taking responsibility for consequences, regardless of legality of actions. Ensuring legality is not the responsibility of Master, but of «wallet», who does not always succeed in acting within the law (often he has no opportunity to act within legal system), and over time, that results in creation of file or dossier that allows to control “wallet” easily.
When Berezovsky began to show his independence refusing to turn back to the category of «wallets”, new «owners», the “Petersburg clan” gave command to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to investigate Berezovsky’s activities. Friend of mine was involved in that investigation and collected the file on Berezovsky’s “organized criminal group”, with evidence that Berezovsky illegally stole from the companies controlled by him, at least 20 billion US dollars. Significant part of that money was transferred from Russia “with love” abroad.
After that, the case was taken from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the FSB, and then (it doesn’t matter who exactly did it) Berezovsky was given a choice: to give everything and end his life in Russian prison, or to take a “small fraction”, about one billion dollars, and go abroad, for example, to London, enjoy staying in the UK and working for new owners, and then… it depends… Berezovsky chose London and then… However, in London, the wind of freedom carried him on another voyage of adventurer, and Berezovsky sailed the sea of opposition. That brought him to “strangulation with scarf”…
(In 2012, when in London Berezovsky was still alive and suing Roman Abramovich, who replaced Berezovsky as «wallet», I wrote the series of articles «The end of the era of «wallets» and Berezovsky», see — https://valerymorozov.com/news/767 )
Thus, the PMC was born in the Kremlin and the special services as special army group for operations in foreign countries and protection of properties and businesses of the ruling elites. It was organized as state corporation, but officially and legally the PMC had to operate as private company owned by «wallet”. This model does not comply with Russian legislation, but it operates and is developing, as I will show below, according to its own laws, not only within the Russian state, or countries that it is operating in, but also in the sphere of international relations.
This should be singled out as important characteristic that determines the structure of the social-state system in Russia. The history of PMC «Wagner» from the very beginning shows discrepancy and gap between the legislation imported in 1990-s from developed capitalist countries, primarily the USA and Europe, and the traditional social and state practice in Russia, between the principles of the functioning of the state, also borrowed from the West, and internal rules and traditions of Russian civilization, Russian mentality, traditional methods of organizing public and state structures that I call the principle of «Russian matryoshka» – “Russian doll”.
“Wagner” appeared as a “doll” inside another larger one, the “Power” doll that comprised of the Armed Forces and Special Services, and that “Power” doll operates from inside the biggest “Kremlin” doll.
In 2013, I did not accept the offer to become that PMC wallet-director, and a year later, there came Yevgeny Prigozhin, who wanted to become that wallet and did it with great enthusiasm.
Prigozhin was selected and appointed not because he wanted to, but because he was already close to the Kremlin. Prigozhin had long-standing ties with the «Petersburg clan «, including with the leadership of the Federal Service of Guards (FSO), who came into the Kremlin with Putin. Among them, the director of the FSO, Yevgeny Murov, who brought businessmen close to him from St. Petersburg, and who had been used as “wallets” of the FSB.
Prigozhin was close to top management of the Directorate of the President (Vladimir Kozhin, the Director, Aleksandr Malyushin, First Deputy Director, and Anatoly Chaus, Head of Construction Department, — all my customers), who were also subordinate to the FSO and Murov personally. Prigozhin’s contact list also included those who had settled in the FSB and Presidential Administration after Putin came to power.
An important circumstance was that Prigozhin was not a stranger for Vladimir Putin also. Putin, while working as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, oversaw Prigozhin’s projects in the field of school meals and, most importantly, the gambling. Yevgeny Prigozhin was part of narrow group, the clan of the main owners of the casino and gaming business in St. Petersburg that was under direct control of the Financial Committee of the city. The Committee was chaired by Alexei Kudrin, who later, when Putin moved in the Kremlin, became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Russian Federation.
There was also the Supervisory Board for Casinos and Gambling Business that was also headed by Kudrin. Vladimir Putin, the Deputy Mayor and the Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Relation, supervised the activities of the Committee and the Board.
The work of the gambling business and control over it by the mayor’s office were organized according to the scheme that was very reminiscent of the Wagner PMC doll, only the other way around: instead of a private individual, the “Neva-Chance” municipal Company owned 51 % percent of the shares of all gaming companies and casinos, but the whole St. Petersburg Gambling doll worked in the interests of individuals. Moreover, the mayor’s office freed gambling companies and casinos from paying rent for city premises.
For all the years this scheme worked in such a way that the gambling business flourished, but did not pay even rent, and the city did not receive a single ruble for all the years. As Putin later recalled in his interview-book “From the First Person”: “To do this, we created a municipal enterprise that did not own any casinos, but controlled 51 percent of the shares of gambling establishments in the city. Representatives of the main controlling organizations were delegated to this enterprise: the FSB, the tax police, and the tax inspectorate. The expectations were that the city, the state, as a shareholder, would receive dividends from 51 percent of the shares. In fact, it was a mistake … all the money from the tables went black cash.”
Rumors attributed the invention of this scheme to the legal expert of the Committee for Foreign Relations, Dmitry Medvedev, the future successor of Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation.
Prigozhin was one of the key figures in that scheme, and he understood immediately what he was told to do with the PMC. He used that opportunity to become billionaire and Director of military power structure that operated abroad and out of the Russian legislation, subordinated directly to the Kremlin.
I think that the fact that he came out of the criminal world, that he had spent eight years in prison, did not particularly bother anyone in the Kremlin. The Kremlin could not even think or imagine that Prigogine would ever want to get out of control.
Childhood and adolescence of PMC «Wagner»
Prigozhin did not come to an empty place. Before he stepped in PMC business, several Russian PMCs had already been created, and all of them worked as private companies, among them Moran Security Group, Slavic Corps (registered in Hong Kong). However, those PMCs could not be suitable for being the Russian doll created inside the “Power doll” that was controlled and located inside the Big Kremlin Doll.
The PMCs that existed at that time were external players and had no direct ties to the ruling elites. Those were real private security companies that worked within the law system for corporations. They protected trade routes, transport, including ships from sea pirates.
By the time Prigozhin appeared as Director of the PMC, the necessary core of the Company-Doll had already been created, and Prigozhin came to develop it. The PMC was to operate as security and law enforcement agency out of Russia, where there were financial and business interests of the top Russian officials, state corporations and special services. It was also to influence political situation in the countries with internal conflicts, operating on the side of local governments and ruling elites.
The main area of activity were Africa and the Middle East, where units of the GRU of the Ministry of Defense were stationed during the Soviet and Yeltsin times. Since 1996, when conflict arose between Yeltsin and Defense Minister Rodionov, who took control of the Family’s business in Angola (diamond mining), and after the dismissal of Rodionov that was secured by Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin did not want and could not give this business under the control of the army.
By creating its own PMC, the Kremlin solved several problems. In politically unstable countries in Africa and Middle East, the businesses owned by the Russian elites were put under protection and control not by the Russian military, but by private military corps, operating as new device, specially created for that purpose and controlled by the Kremlin through special services, among them the FSO, in particular the Presidential Security Service, played the main role, and the FSB, GRU, SVR came as second echelon.
That system allowed the Kremlin to solve another important problem of employment and effective use of officers, who were dismissed from the GRU and the army during reduction of the Russian armed forces.
The officers who made up the backbone of the Wagner PMC were dismissed from the army when civilians were appointed as ministers of defense, for the first time in history since 9th century, the time of creation of Rus. They were Sergey Ivanov, the KGB officer and philologist by his first education, who purged the Ministry of Defense and the GRU. Ivanov was succeeded by «furniture maker» and taxman Anatoliy Serdyukov, appointed by Putin to carry out the sale of military properties, lands and facilities and to cut the Russian Armed Forces. In 2012, Serdyukov was succeeded by Sergey Shoigu, who had not served a day in the army and who put the ministry of defense under tight control of his clan, removing all who seemed unreliable to him.
During the Serdyukov period alone, more than 200,000 Russian officers were fired, from lieutenant to colonel, who comprised the most experienced part of the Russian military. That created nuclear potential capable, under certain political conditions, of covering Russia with tsunami of armed rebellion. However, this potential could also be used in favor of the Russian ruling elites.
The officers, who were dismissed and formed the main backbone of the Wagner PMC, hated new leaders of the Ministry of Defense, but did not want to go into peaceful life. They took advantage of opportunities that opened up for them in Africa, the Middle East, where Russia was restoring its military presence not by setting up military bases and deployment of army units, but by using “independent”, “non-governmental” and “private” PMC that helped local state elites to strengthen their political power, independence and security of their states. This kept unreliable and “angry” officers away from Moscow, gave them opportunity to use their knowledge and skills, calmed them down, maintaining high standard of living for their families.
In 2014, as part of the «polite green men» that took the Crimea with no losses or shots, the detachments of the PMC appeared for the first time on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Among these officers was Dmitry Utkin, call sign Wagner. It was by his call sign that the detachment was named.
Photo: Dmitry Utkin «Wagner»
After the special operation «Return of the Crimea», the PMC “Wagner” received special attention from Putin, who assessed its capabilities and prospects as new form of organization of military structures, as non-state unit under direct control of the FSO — FSB — GRU — SVR and the Kremlin, as powerful network, free from bureaucracy. It could simultaneously act as support force for security of not just individual states, but inter-state territories, significant parts of continents, linking them into a single whole, single sphere and zone of activity by system of connections and interactions in the interests of not only Russia, but also other countries, civilizations, for example, China, India, the Arab world, while guaranteeing the protection of the interests of Russia and its elites.
Photo: Vladimir Putin and officers of the Wagner PMC, Heroes of Russia, after the awards ceremony. From left to right: Andrey Bogatov (call sign «Stroller«, fought in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Syria, where he was wounded and lost his arm, in Ukraine), Andrey Troshev, executive director and chief commander of PMC «Wagner» (call sign «Gray-haired», fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Syria, Ukraine), Vladimir Putin, Alexander Kuznetsov (call sign «Berserk«, fought in Syria, Libya, Ukraine), Dmitry Utkin, commander of PMC assault groups (call sign «Wagner», fought in Chechnya, Syria, Ukraine)
The officers of the Russian army dismissed by the civilian ministers of defense not only began to regain their dignity, status, position in society and influence, but also to grow into force capable of defending their interests in Russia, Africa, the Middle East, in the Asian post-Soviet states, as well as in Europe, primarily in Ukraine, although their actions and connections extended to other European countries (suffice to recall the story of Sergey Skripal and his two former comrades in arms, also merchants and sports tourists Petrov and Bashirov, who fought in PMC “Wagner” not only in Ukraine, but also in Syria before dropping in the UK).
PMC «Wagner» was built on ideology, on the desire to raise status of Russian officers and to take the army out of control of bureaucracy. That was just adolescence of the PMC…
Corporation PMC «Wagner»
In few years “Wagner” moved from protection of facilities and control over production, extraction of natural resources in the interests of Russian elites and business corporations, from the protection of supply chains and transportation routes to ensuring stability, including political, in the zones, regions and then countries of operation.
It turned out that PMC «Wagner» could be useful to local governments and elites in ensuring order and security, and Prigozhin began working with African and Asian state authorities, helping them to strengthen security and provide stability in their countries, to fight external threats and internal enemies.
PMC «Wagner» has become important political force and factor of stability in several African countries. Moreover, not only Russian corporations, local authorities and businesses, but also non-Russian foreign investors, banks and corporations from other countries, including China, India and other countries, felt positive effect of “Wagner’s presence. Through “Wagner”, the Kremlin ensured the strengthening of its ties and relations not only with African countries, but also with China, India and other states interested in developing business in Africa.
The “Wagner’s operational zone has been constantly expanding, and today it covers almost twenty states in Africa alone, and Prigozhin received the opportunity to conduct and expand his business in Africa and Asia in return for his PMC’s services, including by obtaining local deposits of natural resources for development.
And then the time came for the Donbass, for the battle in Bakhmut, for the “meet-grinder” operation that came as unprecedented advertising campaign that not only promoted the brands «Russian PMC”, «Wagner» and «Prigozhin» to the whole world, but made Prigozhin go little crazy…
The future of the PMC “Wagner”
In the previous article, I examined in detail the so-called “Prigozhin rebellion” and two factors that had important impact on the initial stage of the development of the internal political crisis in Russia.
The first factor was decision of Putin to launch special military operation and invade Ukraine that showed inability of the Russian armed forces to ensure quick victory and the need to resurrect Russia’s military-industrial complex and Armed Forces capable of fighting long and intense war with NATO. The second factor was the clan struggle for Presidentship and the Kremlin and attempt of significant part of the elites, including military, to stop Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on his way to the Kremlin.
I also pointed out third factor, and that was the interest of most countries of the world, including the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), to stop the war in Ukraine. These countries want Russia not only to stop the conflict, but also to ensure control and security on the territory of the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine, for international trade and to deprive the United States of the ability to block the interests of China, India, Iran and other countries on the territory of Ukraine, as it was done in all centuries of Russia’s existence, when the main crossroads of trade routes from China, South Asia, Southeast Asia to Europe and back were secured by Russia. Putin promised this before the start of the war in Ukraine, and he is to deliver the promise.
The UN cannot provide that level of security, and that requires to create new system, new international structures with new functions and capabilities. In this situation, PMC «Wagner» can become prototype and basis for creation of international, inter-state military structure that could be controlled by interested parties and operate in their common interests. Its potential is enormous, but neither the PMC in its current form, nor Prigozhin as “owner” and Director meet the requirements and tasks.
The new «Wagner» should be used not only in Africa or Asia, but also, for example, in South America. The role of this structure is especially important in those regions, where the interests intersect of those countries that cannot allow each other’s direct military presence, dominance of one of the parties, for example, in Central Asia and in Afghanistan, where India and China should work closely together.
This new non-state system should be able not only to protect and ensure stability necessary for doing business and world trade, but also to link countries and continents, relieving them from the risks of interstate exacerbations and conflicts, while maintaining independence and equal level of security for countries that are unable to independently maintain required level of their defense and security, relieving them from unbearable defense spendings.
“Wagner” must be transformed in the interests of the club of countries, and not only Russia, must be transformed into a new entity that the present “Wagner” and Prigozhin do not correspond to…
(To be continued)