A new private military company (PMC) called “Patriot” has been active in Syria at least since spring 2018, and is presumably connected to the Russian Defense Ministry, reported the TV channel Dozhd, citing a source in military circles.
The Patriot PMC was mentioned alongside the Wagner PMC in a request to the government signed by retired lieutenant-general Leonid Ivashov, Vladimir Petrov, head of the international public organization Honor and Homeland, and Yevgeny Shabayev, chairman of the All-Russia Officer’s Assembly committee.
All three confirmed that they know of the existence of the Patriot PMC.
The statement demands the government to define the legal status of Russians who have seen combat as part of a PMC. The signatories plan to submit the request to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Supreme Court and the President of Russia, Shabayev noted.
The authors warn of a coming crisis in the veteran movement. For three years already, the All-Russia Officer’s Assembly has been receiving complaints from people wounded in combat in Syria, who do not receive “social, rehabilitative or economic support” from the state, due to the lack of legal status for PMC fighters.
The veteran sources connect the new PMC to the Russian Defense Ministry. Patriot is partially comprised of Russian military personnel, including active specialists of the Main Directorate of the General Staff, military lawyers, and special operations forces.
An officer of the Defense Ministry, comparing the new PMC to the “Wagner Group”, remarked that Patriot pays more and is better at assigning military objectives. According to Shabayev, “depending on specialization, salaries can reach between 400,000 and a million rubles. Work is done for a month or two, longer contracts don’t come up”.
A veteran source said that Wagner and Patriot were competing to obtain a contract related to the protection of gold miners in the Central African Republic. The source said that Wagner ultimately won the contract. Both military companies are also fighting and operating in Syria.
“Whereas Wagner takes on military assignments more often, Patriot is more often involved in the protection of important people,” a Dozhd correspondent added.
According to the request from the All-Russia Officer’s Assembly, Patriot is not the only new PMC.
“There are other companies which are going out onto the market. We don’t know their exact names, but we know that they are going to Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei. There is now an entire complex consultation with African countries,” Shabayev observed.
One of the PMCs which does not yet have a name is responsible for protecting the Russian base under construction in Burundi, a Defense Ministry source told Dozhd.
News of the Wagner PMC first came out in March 2016, in a publication by the St. Petersburg-based news outlet Fontanka. According to the article, Dmitry “Wagner” Utkin, a former special forces commander from the Russian GRU, is behind the PMC. The Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent researchers, claims to have evidence that Wagner fighters have been involved in the conflict in Syria. Officially the group’s involvement in the military operation in Syria is denied.
The Security Service of Ukraine has established that the Wagner PMC was complicit in the downing of a Ukrainian Il-76 in the Donbas and in the developments surrounding Debaltseve.