Russian Private Military Companies

19 m.   |  2020-05-12

The number of private military companies in the world have been growing rapidly in recent years and with their participation in wars worldwide they contribute a large part of armed forces that exist. Essentially, this model based on outsourcing military personnel helps minimize all “unclean” affairs of governments and avoids political repercussions.

Modern private military companies have been operating since the 1960s. Their main objective was to ensure security in the economic field. For instance, the first US Private Military Company “Vinnell Corp.” was created to protect the Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves. However, their functions soon changed. Currently these institutions can be defined as commercial enterprises, which offer specialized services to protect someone or something. According to some estimates, $100 to $400 bil. is circulated annually in the market of the PMC services.

 Vinnell corp. in Saudi Arabia

Military companies train fighters of other security forces and increase the combat readiness of officers and technical staff and conduct strategic planning for governments or enterprises. Private military companies also provide logistic services: repair of military equipment, supply of spare parts, maintenance of network and communication systems, demining and so on.

There is no international law that clearly regulates the activity of private military companies. These mercenaries are only mentioned in the Geneva Convention and in the International Convention adopted in 1989. Here, it states that mercenaries and their recruitment is illegal. However, these Conventions do not define the essence and functions of modern military companies as well as their contradictions with human rights.

Such an attempt was made in 2008, when the Swiss Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) adopted the Montreux document, which is declarative in nature, without any legal force. Montreux document was signed by 17 countries, including the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Ukraine and so on. In most of these countries there are laws on the legal activity of these companies. The document presents the military companies in a positive light, hence the reason many countries didn’t not end up signing it.

Among the countries that did not sign the adopted document, were such countries as Australia, Canada, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia. Russia is not allowed to create private military companies, since the function of conducting military operations is exclusively for the state, however, it does not prevent a number of private military companies from operating in Russia under a different name.

Legal Regulations of Private Military Companies in Russia

Private Military Companies started to form in Russia around the 1990s, after the collapse of the USSR, when tens of thousands of skilled soldiers became unemployed. The majority of whom took part in various military operations around the world. Referring to the legal status of these companies their activity in the country are considered illegal. According to Article 208 of the Criminal code, it is punished by 3-7 years of imprisonment. Therefore, many companies are registered in other countries or they are registered not as a private military company. There were several proposals to legalize their activity; however, the Government did not accept them.

Between 2012-2020, the proposed bill to legalize the activities of military companies was submitted 4 times in the Duma and each time by the Justice Russia party. The first mention of the legalization of private military companies was  on April 11, 2012, when the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in his report supported the idea of creating private military companies though he expressed without the state’s involvement. Shortly after this announcement, the member of the Justice Russia party Alexei Mitrofan presented to the State Duma Committee on Defense the bill “On the Establishment of Private Military Companies and State Regulation of Activities”.

The content of the bill was logical: to create companies, which would provide services on a contractual basis to foreign legal entities operating in other countries. It was sent for review and was cancelled after a two-year delay. The amended versions of the bill were presented in 2014 and in 2016. In case of the first version, it was mentioned that besides providing services in other countries, private companies can operate in Russia. The 2016 bill provided for the implementation of private military security operations by foreign organizations only within the framework of international treaties of the Russian Federation. In both cases, the bills didn’t reach the State Duma.

The last bill to legalize the activities of private military companies was introduced in 2018, when PMC’s became more globalized due to two Russian citizens were taken  prisoner suspected of being members of the Wagner PMC. After this particular incident, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referring to this issue stressed the importance of having a law on protecting citizens of Russia who are part of private companies in other countries.

Shortly after this announcement, Sergei Mironov and his colleagues drafted a new bill, which was immediately sent to the Government. However, two months later it was rejected, as it contradicted 2 points of the Constitution: Article 13, paragraph 5, which prohibits creation of armed groups by provoking social, racial, national and religious hatred and Article 71, which states that the issue of defense and security are within the exclusive responsibility of the State.

Russian Military Companies

Despite a law against private military companies in Russia, a number of firms do operate which take part in military conflicts. So far, Russian companies not taking part in various conflicts are “Antiterror-Orel”, “Tiger Top Rent Security”, “RSB group”, “MAP”. “Slavonic Corps”, “Wagner” and “E.N.O.T” have participated and are still currently participating in the military operations around the world.


A ntiterror-Orel was established in 1998, whose members are former servicemen and veterans of the Federal Security Service and GVA. “Antiterror-Orel” consists of 24 main and 300 reserve members, who have different professions. The company worked in India, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and in Angola.

In 2004, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Iraq and Sergei Isakov, head of “Antiterror-Orel” came to the agreement of transporting military equipment to Iraq. This was through Jordan and Israel, were defending the delegation of officials in the north of the country was of prime importance. According to one of its members, during the Russian-Georgian war, they were engaged in military consultation in Abkhazia. 

8 members of the organization participated in a demining operation near the Serbian town of Nis in 2008. According to the latest data, the company plans to bring out 23 sunken ships in the waters of Basra for $20 mil.

Tiger Top Rent Security

T iger Top Rent Security was registered on the British Island of Virginia in 2005. The main motive for its creation was to carry out peacekeeping missions in Iraq. “The Highway 2005” operation was there main objective which aimed at restoring the Najibia power plant in Basra province. By 2005, they successfully completed their mission by delivering 120 cars to Najibia.

Although the organization was liquidated in a short time, it managed to carry out tasks which included escorting guards and securing the military structures. Tiger Top has also been involved in various missions in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan and defended the heads of the oil companies and Russian diplomats. Many security groups, such as “Redut-Anterror”, “Ferrax” and Redut-Security” were created on the basis of this company.


T he services of the “MAP” company includes technical security, investigations, as well as protection of individuals, oil and gas systems, cargo transportation. MAP evacuated civilians from the war zones, such as Libya and Syria and provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine. According to Ukrainian sources, there were ammunition and uniforms.


RSB-group (Russian Security System) private company provides services in countries with terrorist and criminal activities, such as Egypt, Columbia, China, and Libya. The activity of the organizations complies with the UN and Red Cross agreements. In addition, the company is registered as an official partner of the UN and a provider of security services. The company often has to deny claims that they are a military company. Oleg Krintsin the head of RSB-group and the former member of the Federal Security Service also refuses by emphasizing, that during all their activities they didn’t take part in any military operation.

The company is engaged in technical protection and security, protection of ships from pirates, intelligence, military and legal advice. The company protects the Indian and Atlantic ships from the pirates. The members of the company receive about 250 thous. rubles a month and are mainly experienced soldiers aged 25-40.

In Benghazi 2016 according to the head of the organization, RSB group were contracted by the LLC Cement Company and were offered to carry out demining operations in the areas liberated by Khalifa Khawtar in 2016. The total demining area was 750 thous. square km, in return the British company demanded $50 000 for each square km., but the Russian RSB-group agreed to do it for $10-15 000 and the total value of the contract was $7.5-11.2 mil.

PMC’s Participating in Armed Conflicts
E.N.O.T. Corp

E.N.O.T. Corp (United People’s Community Partnership) considers itself an Orthodox community in Russia and has an official status. In 2016, it was registered in the Ministry of Justice as a non-governmental organization for the promotion of military-patriotic education of young people. It has never submitted a report as a non-profit organization during the years of registration, never considered itself a private military company and their activities in Donbass and Lugansk have been considered as humanitarian. However, some sources mention that under the veil of humanitarian aid, they transported ammunition and often appeared in combat operations.

On the basis of this company lays  Yegor Mangushev’s “Bright Russia” nationalist movements, who mentions, that he had contacts with Roman Telenkevich, the head of the “National Temple” organization, with whom they decided to establish a nationalist organization, since there were enough military in Lugansk, as well as combat experience they decided to turn it into a business.

This military company is famous for its military training for children aged 12-18. There are a number of videos on the Internet, where minors learn to shoot and fight. The first such event was organized in Belarus, which was attended by Russia, Montenegro, Serbia, Belarus and the unrecognized Transnistria and South Ossetia. Later such kind of military-patriotic event was held in Moscow.

In August 2018, it became known that E.N.O.T children’s camps in Serbia were closed because of the possible violence against children and general public anxiety. In Serbia, it was led by Serbian veterans. In the same year, some members of E.N.O.T were arrested in Russia for inciting juveniles to crime and for inciting hatred and enmity. The arrests gained new momentum in 2019, when its main members Alexander Mrischuk  Baryakshev, officers of the FSB department became suspected for stealing 4.8 mil. rubles. In addition, the Investigative Committee recognized this organization as a PMC and accused its main members of robbery and of other extortion.

Slavonic Corps

Slavonic Corps was the first Russian PMC, which officially appeared in Syria. The company was established in October 2013 and was registered in Hong Kong. Its leaders are Vadim Gusev and Yevgeniy Sidorov, former heads of the Moran Security Group international private military company, who left Moran in the same year to establish their own company.

A ccording to the members of Slavonic Corps, they gathered to protect the “energy systems' ' in Syria. The military initially thought that they would fight against Bashar al-Assad, but it turned out that they would fight for the Syrian Government. A total of 267 fighters gathered. According to the head of RSB-group, there were also former members of his company, who were removed from RSB-group for bad behavior. On October 15, they drove to Der-El-Zor in weak armor and Hyundai և JMC SUVs covered with portraits of Bashar al-Assad and Syrian flags.

However, they were attacked near the town of Al-Sukhna and the fighters retreated. They are left with Alexei Malyut’s bag, which had the crew photos inside. After returning Russia, they were met by Federal Security Service officers at Vnukovo airport, were arrested and interrogated, where he told who was sending him abroad, and the leaders Sidorov and Gusev were imprisoned for 3 years.

Returning home, the members of Slavonic Corps demanded their salaries from the Moran group. Till now, the members of the Slavonic Corps haven’t received their wages.


W agner private military company is considered the legal successor of the above-mentioned Slavonic Corps. The salary in the Slavonic Corps was $5000 and Wagner pays 180,000 rubles in Lugansk, if they take part in hostilities, it is paid by 60,000 rubles more. In Syria the amount is higher and if a fighter dies, 3mil. rubles are transferred to his family.

It is the most famous Russian PMC, whose activity began in 2014. The first military operation took part in Crimea, when its fighters disarmed the Ukrainian Army and began to take control over a number of facilities. They got the nickname “polite people” for their “good behavior” in Ukraine.

Then they left for the East of Ukraine, to Donbas, where a clash broke out between the Ukrainian Government and pro-Russian forces. They are linked to the shooting of the Il-76 plane and 4 political murders, about which a recording was later found between Dmitry Utkin, the head of Wagner and Lugansk Minister of Interior Igor Kornet, who personally led the operation to eliminate dissident commanders. They disarmed the Odessa brigade as well as the Russian Cossacks. Wagner left Ukraine in 2015, and after that, sanctions were imposed on Wagner and Dmitry Utkin, his chief of staff.


W agner’s soldiers were first spotted in Syria in 2015, when 9 of their fighters were killed in Latakia. At that time their actions were connected with the Russian Ministry of Defense, however the Russian side denied it by calling it an “information attack”.

Later in a conversation with RBTH the members of the Federal Council of Russia and the anonymous representatives of the Ministry of Defense announced that Wagner is related to the Russian GVI. It was also reported, that several fighters of Wagner

were moved to Syria by Russian military planes. In August 2017, Wagner’s staff in Syria reached 5000, including Chechens and Ingush. The anonymous senior commander said that there are 5 Wagner companies in Syria, as well as the Carpathians Company which includes Ukrainians. They participated in the Deir Ez-Zor fight in March 2017 as advisors and coordinators helping to capture the city of Ukayibad.

The next major Wagner operation took place in Khasham area of Deir Ez-Zor. They fought by the side of Syrian Government forces against Kurdish armed groups, which was supported by the United States. As a result, more than 200 Russians were killed. In 2018, the Wagner group took part in the fighting in Damascus, recapturing the city of Mesraban.

Mozambique, Venezuela, Madagascar, Libya, Central African Republic, Sudan

Wagner cooperated with the Ministry of Defense of Mozambique. In October 2019, the PMC has carried out several successful operations with the Mozambique Armed Forces against the rebels, bombing their bases. Before that, Mozambique Government approved the agreement on the entry of Russian warships into the national ports, after which the Russian ship entered the port of Nakalla, carrying various weapons. Russia, however, denied that it had troops in Mozambique.

The members of Wagner have appeared in Venezuela as well. During the presidential crisis in 2019, they provided the security of Nicolas Maduro. According to a source, they arrived in Venezuela before the presidential elections in 2018. Their aim was to secure the interests of Russian business, such as the security of Rosneft.

In October 2018, British The Sun newspaper, citing British intelligence officials said that two Russian military bases were established in Benghazi and Tobruk in the east of Libya in defense of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who  leads the Libyan National Army in the Civil War.

In 2018, the Russian MFA stated that he sent “170 civilian instructors” to the Central African Republic. Later it was confirmed that the instructors were from the Wagner members and were sent to Africa to protect the mines.

Interesting Cases

T he events surrounding Wagner escalated when the video of a brutal murder in Syria in 2017 appeared on the Internet in 2019.

Photo from the video of murder, where the warrior’s face is seen.

In a video released on June 30, 2017, the fighters in mask who spoke Russian fluently, tortured a person in civilian clothes in an industrial facility in the Syrian desert. Immediately after this video, opinions started circulating that the fighters were the members of Wagner PMC, however no evidence was found. Here, as they continue to torture the victim, the faces of the fighters can also be seen.

Novaya Gazeta revealed by the FindClone program the identity of one of them, which is Stanislav D, whose name has been on Wagner's list of mercenaries since 2016. According to Arab sources, the incident took place near Shayir, where the unit was located in the spring of 2017. The identity of another fighter was also confirmed by Fontanka periodical a 39 year old Ruslan who participant in the Chechen war he denied his in an interview with the website. The Kremlin called the video shocking. The Spokesman for Russia’s president Dminty Peskov emphasized that they had nothing to do with the people involved.

The Connection Between Kremlin and The Wagner According to

F website launched an investigation into the Wagner group, where it presented a connection with the Kremlin. The website mentions their arrival in Syria in connection with the visit of Syrian oil and gas Minister Ali Ghanem to Russia in December 2016. Ghanem mentioned, in an interview with SANA that he met not only with the Minister of Energy Alexander Novak, but also with the representatives of Russian oil companies operating in Syria. Euro Polis LLC, with whom the Syrian government signed a memorandum pledged to liberate Syria, where oil and gas fields are located, for which they will receive 25% of the value of the extracted hydrocarbons.

The studies show that Euro Polis LLC was registered on July 13, 2016, in Krasnogorsk and the only employee was the CEO. Since its inception until December 2016, the company hasn't conducted any activity. It began to operate in 2017, when Oleg Erokhin became its leader, who could be connected with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the hero of Russia Andrei Trosh and members of Wagner. In 2017, the only owner of the company became Naya CJSC but its owner Valeri Chkanov is also the director of “Collective Services” LLC, whose phone numbers coincide with two dozen companies associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin. is one of the most famous websites in Saint Petersburg. It became more famous for its investigative articles on Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner, after which he was accused of being sponsored from the west. The website belongs to “Azhur Media” Holding, headed by Andrei Konstantinov, who heads the Board of Trustees of the 19/29 Investigative Journalism Support Foundation. This foundation received a considerable amount of money from the US and the EU, for which it appeared in the black list of the Russian Ministry of Justice.