05/23/2023, 10.17
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Not just Wagner: the proliferation of Russian mercenary armies

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Officially, Russian law does not allow mercenary armies, but there are many ways around this rule and the CNVKs have multiplied in the context of the war in Ukraine. Oligarch Timčenko's Redut is registered as a 'construction company' in Rostov-on-Don, the historical capital of the Cossacks.

Moscow (asiaNews) - There has been a lot of talk in recent months about Wagner Company, the mercenary army of 'Putin's cook' Evgenij Prigožin, but in the meantime the Čvk (acronym for private war companies) have multiplied in the context of Russia's 'holy crusade' against Ukraine and the West.

The best known are the 'Redut', the 'Bars', the 'Don' (Union of Donbass Volunteers) and others, some of which have been on track since 2014, after the start of the 'hybrid war' that followed the Maidan revolution and the annexation of Crimea. Almost every region of the Russian Federation (there are more than 90) is trying to organise its own volunteer group.

Thousands and thousands of Russians are fighting 'on their own', with increasingly haphazard coordination by the official army. Officially, Russian law does not allow mercenary military service, but there are plenty of ways to get around this rule, and deal with the Main Investigative Administration (Crane) of the Ministry of Defence, the office that grants approval to armed gangs to 'support special operations'.

Wagner now has a federal dimension, its propaganda posters are hung on every corner of every city in Russia, and videos are shown on television stations inviting everyone to join Prigožin's glorious campaign, especially those who wish to settle their accounts with the law.

Another well-known unity Redut  offers salaries on the level of Wagner and organises excellent training stages; its members were among the first to openly take action after 24 February 2022, the day of the Putin invasion.

The Redut was named in Novaja Gazeta as early as 2019, when the base of this Čvk was located in Kubinka, on the outskirts of Moscow, on land adjacent to the 45th Special Forces brigade (Spetsnaz) air-terrestrial intervention brigade.

Before the Ukrainian war, the Redut was engaged in the defence and security of some Russian Strojtransgaz factories in Syria. The company, according to various sources, belongs to Gennadij Timčenko, an oligarch very close to Vladimir Putin, ranked eighth among Russian billionaires according to Forbes.

Redut also runs very active recruitment campaigns, especially on Telegram and other social networks. The candidate must be at least 25 years old, already have a military specialisation and experience in some law enforcement structure.

In theory, this makes Timčenko's company a more qualified elite even than Prigožin's, which recruits many criminals and is the most heinous, but not always the most professional. In fact, given the current needs, all active gangs 'take whoever they can get', as an anonymous member testified to Idel.Realii.

Currently, the Redut is registered as a 'construction company' in Rostov-on-Don, the main historical city of the Cossacks, from which all these armies take their inspiration. According to other documents collected by the media, the company also acts as a 'regional laboratory for social and psychological research of the Ministry of Defence', which members join in order to 'collaborate in sociological research', the main objective of which is to 'assess the ability of soldiers to comply with army discipline and directives'. In practice, given the civilian population's low propensity for mobilisation, the private companies serve as a stimulus and example.

Before the 'annexation referendums' of the four Donbass republics and the Black Sea coast, pay to mercenaries was distributed in US dollars, whereas now it can only be given in roubles, as from 'special operation' the war has now turned into 'defence of the homeland territories'.

The standard used to be per day, with compensation of ,000 for minor injuries, ,000 for serious ones and ,000 for death. According to some participants' testimonies, the spirit of the mercenary is that of the šturmovik, the assailant who 'always goes in front' to open the way for the army. The risk is that in time these more or less private vanguards will no longer be followed by regular troops. And that they will then start to turn back, to gain territory and power within Russia itself.

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