Nearly three months after the plane crash in which Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner’s boss, died, the private military company that overshadowed the Kremlin has lost its strength and prestige. There are only “a few dozen mercenaries” left by Wagner in Syria, said the American news site Al-Monitor, specializing in the Middle East, on Sunday, November 12.
The mercenary group has also been “permanently dissolved”, announced Andreï Kartapolov, the chairman of the Duma defense committee, on November 2. “Most of the fighters are in the process of being transferred to other structures. Some of them continue to carry out missions in African countries, but under another brand, under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense, some have signed a contract with the army or with the national guard,” he said. he added.
Contract with Russian defense
Fighters from the private military company have several choices: join the regular army, lay down their arms or move towards military companies that have signed a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense. Among them, Redut. It was originally formed by soldiers and officers of the GRU (Russian intelligence services) after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The company was reconstituted when Russia intervened in support of the regime in the Syrian civil war.
“It’s a fake private military company, run by the Russian Ministry of Defense,” says Thomas Da Silva, doctoral student at Paris-Nanterre University and specialist in Russian irregular fighters.
The paramilitary structure, “also known in Syria as STG Shchit, intervenes in support of the Russian army,” according to Al-Monitor. Like Wagner, his fighters are tasked with guarding facilities including a gas plant and a fertilizer production complex. “Until mid-2022, Redut had around a hundred fighters on site,” estimates the online media.
Starting with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Redut mercenaries have notably fought in the Battle of kyiv, around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and near Kharkiv. Redut “grew during the war in Ukraine,” explains Thomas Da Silva.
Takeover of mercenaries
Indeed, the group has grown in power against a backdrop of growing conflict between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense. Tightly controlled by the Russian government, led de facto by the deputy director of the GRU, Vladimir Alekseyev, the group is a key element in Moscow’s strategy to take control of the mercenaries. A paradox, because these private military companies are prohibited under Russian law.
“The salaries of Redut fighters are paid by the Ministry of Defense. The group took over from Wagner to ensure the renewal of troops on the front in Ukraine, details Thomas Da Silva. Through its flexible structure and relatively high pay, it can attract profiles who would not have joined regular troops. Its members support other units, regular or irregular, depending on specific needs. »
“In addition, he can operate in the shadows, which serves the interests of Moscow, and thus recruit detainees in Russian prisons,” explains the researcher. As its fighters who fell at the front are not counted in official statistics, it serves as a screen to conceal losses. »