According to a recent interview given by a former member of Russia’s ostensibly private military company (PMC) Wagner Group, the organization, which is linked to the Russian Military Intelligence Service (GRU), is brutal, corrupt, and incompetent. Wagner is used by the Kremlin to intervene in hotspots where Moscow wants ‘plausible deniability.”
Though this Wagner-Kremlin deniability is becoming increasingly ‘implausible.’
The former commander of a Wagner infantry reconnaissance company, Marat Gabidullin, was earlier a paratrooper in the Russian Army. He joined Wagner in 2015 and fought with Wagner in Syria. Partly disenchanted with the group’s treatment, he wrote a book about Wagner in 2017, titled In the Same River Twice.
According to VOA News, Gabidullin said he “wrote the book in part to push the Kremlin into acknowledging the group’s existence, as well as the deaths of its fighters, who receive neither military funerals nor posthumous medals. Around 300 Wagner fighters are believed to have been killed or wounded in a firefight with U.S.-led Kurdish forces in Syria in February 2018.”
The book’s publication has since been suspended in Russia.
In an interview with Medusa, an independent Russian web publication, Gabidullin revealed how Wagner’s owner, plutocrat, and formerly, Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s chef, Evgeny Rogozin was often unaware of what happened in his own company, notes SOFREP.
He also explains how Wagner’s military commander, Dmitry Utkin, previously a special forces lieutenant colonel in the GRU, ordered his men to commit a war crime during the bloody Syrian civil war; brutally torturing a Syrian deserter; a crime that was filmed and widely distributed on the internet.
Gabidullin also claimed that Wagner members looted antiquities from Syria, including the historic site at Palmyra, where he was seriously wounded in 2016. He stated:
In the headquarters at the [oil plant in] Khayane and at the Tankodrome [PMC base], for example, there were ancient stones that we had taken from Palmyra…. I once occupied a room where there was a [chipped] bas-relief on a shelf. They chopped off, I think, from the upper platform from one of the columns — and there [on the bas-relief] some signs were depicted — perhaps writing [graffiti].
Beyond the brutality and corruption though, Gabidullin paints a picture of an increasingly demoralized and incompetent force. Gabidullin says that in the early days, the bulk of Wagner recruits were Russian military veterans, but that more recently it has had difficulties in enlisting professional soldiers. Instead it is taking in recruits with little or no military experience.
According to SOFREP, he “told Medusa that Wagner is no longer attracting professional Russian soldiers in its recruiting efforts. Instead, they’re taking recruits with little to no practical experience and commanders that aren’t up to the jobs they’re given.” Gabidullin said:
People who got to smell gunpowder in Chechnya or during the Georgia War are no longer striving [to join the Wagner PMC]. And it turns out that more than half of the personnel are [at war] for the first time.
In 2015-2017, Wagner’s [Dmitry Utkin] led a squad of gladiators — now he is leading an army of slaves… Most of the commanders absolutely are not up to the level of their positions. And the veterans who still remain in this formation have made up their minds: ‘The main task is to survive…They aren’t thinking about victory anymore.
Gabidullin’s book has suspiciously been pulled from the printing presses, reportedly at Gabidullin’s request, according to Siberia-based publisher Nayemnik, notes SOFREP. But this follows numerous allegations in pro-Kremlin newspapers that his memoir contains “inconsistencies and falsehoods” – a sure way to get anything censored in Putin’s Russia.
This is also a good way to get censored today in the United States.