They were not present in Crimea in 2014. They have not been present in the Donbass these four years. They are not present in Syria. They are not present in Central African Republic, in Libya and in Sudan… However, it looks like they are present in the Hague.
The so called “veterans of military conflicts” also knows as “servicemen on leave”, “volunteers” and “rebels” who are in fact simply “the soldiers of fortune”, in other words they are mercenaries from Russian private military companies, are intent upon turning to the International Criminal Court (ICC) itself to maintain their rights (!). The veterans of the underground military groups are planning to gain an official status, recognition, standard benefits, etc. from the Russian government which sent them to the war denying their presence in the hot spots, and, as a result, refraining from any social or financial responsibility for them. [The government] is concealing the losses, and it is not a rare case when the dead [militants] are buried in unmarked graves. It seems that the people “who-are-not-present-there” are no longer satisfied with the current state of affairs and are determined to insist of international organisation’s investigation into the secret military operations in Syria, in Ukraine and in Africa.
“We are here!” – they are writing to the ICC in The Hague (by the way, Russia is not a member of the IMC and does not come within its jurisdiction). The application draft runs that the Russian state is actually “misleading civilians” “with the aim to unlawfully use them in military purposes” by not acknowledging that the participants of the conflicts in the Donbass, Syria and Africa work for “them”. There will be some forum of veteran groups where these issues will be considered in Moscow on 18th November.
However, the Kremlin insists that these people are present neither here nor there. “We do not know what veteran groups your are talking about. There is nothing I can say on the issue,” was the replay of the Kremlin’s spokesman.
That said for two week now a number of mass media outlets affiliated with Evgeny Prigozhin [an oligarch and owner of the Vagner private security firm] have been trying to discredit the organiser of this movement, a veteran “who is not present there” Evgeny Shabayev. They no longer call him “a fellow soldier”. Now he is a “traitor” and “parasite” because, according to the so called Federal News Agency he filed a complaint with the ICC calling upon the court to “open a criminal case under Paragraph (i) Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – “enforced disappearance of persons”.
It is noteworthy that Shibayev was among those who acknowledged that a large number of Russian citizens died in Syria in February 2018. According to eyewitnesses, over 200 Russians who worked for private military companies died in battles near Deir ez-Zor. On 12th February I demanded from Putin to report on the mass death of Russians in Syria. It is easy to guess that no answer has followed.
In the summer three Russian journalists who had been making a documentary about the activity of privet military companies in Africa were murdered in Central African Republic.
Some time ago the Russian government unanimously denied sending Russian militants to Libya. However, almost the next day a Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin who, according to mass media, is related to the Vagner PMC, “the troll factory” and organises catering for the Kremlin events, openly participated in the meeting of Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Moscow. The government provided a simple explanation why a “chef ” was present at the meeting of the high-ranking military officials: Prigozhin was supposedly organising the official lunch for the heads of military departments of Russia and Libya. He also participated in the discussion the cultural programme for the Libyan delegation. It seems that introducing the real head of the “servicemen on leave” who are “on holiday” in Libya to Libyan officials was part of the cultural programme.
It is clear that it is enough to support one of the warring factions to destabilise the situation in a country like Libya. This will help both to strengthen and control the flow of refugees from South Africa, in other words – smuggling people to Europe, where political parties win and loose elections because of their stance on migration. This is enough to rock politics. Moscow hopes that Europe will find an argument like this convincing enough.
The attempts of private military contractors to appeal to international organisations with the demand to make Russia acknowledge them (by the way, the Russian government hired, trained, equipped and secretly sent them to the war) as well participation of “caterers” in geopolitical negotiations alongside the Defence Minister and Chief of General Staff, just like the case with the “heroes from Russian Military Intelligence”, are manifestations of a deep crisis. This is a good example of the why a mafia-state functions.
“A private military company” in a country that absolutely lacks public and civil control over corruption, that has no prominent independent mass media, no checks and balances, no independent courts but has a selective approach to law enforcement is a very controversial and dangerous phenomenon. The increase in number of private military companies in Russia coverup up by the government without any transparency of the process very quickly leads to the formation, strengthening and consolidation of an anti-constitutional institution, and it is very dangerous. This structure is actually an unlawful armed group that can be used by anyone (If they gave money and have an inclination to engage in adventures) both abroad and inside the country.
It is not surprising that the activity of structures like this in Russia has not been defined by law yet and is not regulated. There is no doubt that the legal vacuum and confusion are supported as a matter of convenience to engage in hybrid warfares and operations, to exonerate the government from responsibility – both the responsibility for the activity of private military contractors and their future if they are captured or if they die.
The government’s involvement in the process of creation and development of non-governmental armed groups, an informal merger of state and private defence structures leads to a transformation of the state system.
From the 1990s up to now the major problem in Russia has been a lack of checks and balances, a merger of the government and big business. Now this list has been added by an autonomous force element that has been recently developed using public funds and supported by the government. What is more, it is being used to illegally engage in war in Syria and Ukraine, and this is hidden from the public.
There are many consequences to this: moral and ethical, political, international, military. In addition, the creation of hybrid informal armed groups that have no official status on the territory of Russia has a key aspect within internal policies: this is a real and serious threat to security within the country.