Don't miss




Emma Gonzalez, a US teen activist against gun violence

Read more


104 Dapchi schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram

Read more


Spoof children's book about Mike Pence's gay bunny tops Amazon bestsellers

Read more


Mind the pay gap: UK companies publish figures on gender pay disparity

Read more


Amnesty: Nigerian army ignored warnings before abduction of Dapchi schoolgirls

Read more


May 1968: 'It was a revolt against capitalism'

Read more


What to expect if you delete Facebook

Read more


Khodorkovsky blames Kremlin for Russian ex-spy poisoning

Read more


Sarkozy placed under investigation for corruption

Read more


The business of war: Russian mercenaries in Syria

© Screengrab of the FRANCE 24 exclusive video

Video by Elena VOLOCHINE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-02-23

A paramilitary chief who serves as a contact for Russians who want to become mercenaries in Syria discusses the grim business of making war for profit. He spoke to FRANCE 24 only on condition of anonymity.

If you live near Russia's Yekaterinburg and want to fight with pro-regime forces in Syria, there’s one man you need to speak to. He is a paramilitary chief who advises Russians wanting to work for Wagner, a shadowy Kremlin-linked private military contractor known for sending mercenaries to Syria.

“Each week I receive five or six new requests,” he told FRANCE 24. “Some call me by phone, others come to see me. About a hundred people in the region are planning to go to Syria.”

He said that interest has only increased since the Russian foreign ministry reported that five Russians died in a US bombing raid on pro-regime troops attacking opposition forces in Syria's Deir Ezzor province on February 7.

“Now, it’s more about getting revenge than it is about money,” he said.

But the chief warned that these revenge-seekers don’t know the whole story. According to him, it wasn’t just five Russians killed in the American raid – it was 218. (US officials have said about 100 pro-regime fighters were killed, without specifying whether they were Syrian army, Russian or other forces.)

However, the paramilitary chief said only 150 bodies have so far been recovered.

“There are 150 people in refrigerators on the Wagner base” back in Russia, he said. “Their state? 'Minced meat' is how they described them to me.”

Even so, the chief doesn’t feel much sympathy for those who died; he believes it is a fate they chose.

“If you sign up with a private military company, you have sold yourself to them for money,” he said. “The company can use you however it wants. What will happen to you after your death? If you’ve been turned into mincemeat, so what? They put you in a bag, close the coffin and – in the best-case scenario – send you home. In the worst, they bury you there. If you are ready to earn money by killing people and defending the commercial interests of others, then that’s fine.”

Though the assault happened more than two weeks ago, the chief says that the families of the dead still don’t know what happened to their relatives.

“Nothing will happen before the presidential election on March 18,” he told FRANCE 24.

“We all know why. There’s no problem keeping the deaths secret.”

The military chief told FRANCE 24 that these private contractors step in when the Russian government needs deniability.

“What’s the main goal of any private military company? Defend the interests of a government if it can’t use the regular army,” he said.

He says Wagner, which also sends mercenaries to fight in the Donbass region in Ukraine, is in the mercenary business for profit.

“The goal is financial revenue and the possibility of taking control of a large market for oil resources so our country can control it,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing."

"We didn’t start this war. But it’s up to us to finish it."

Click on the video player above to view an excerpt. The full FRANCE 24 interview will be broadcast on Saturday.

Date created : 2018-02-23


    UN calls Syria's Eastern Ghouta ‘hell on earth’ ahead of Security Council vote

    Read more


    US military launches rare strike on Syrian government-backed troops

    Read more


    Amnesty accuses Russia of killing hundreds of civilians in Syria bomb raids

    Read more