Russian oligarchs and state-owned companies are turning to a new kind of venture: running private military groups and training their own battalions for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russian oligarchs and state-owned companies are increasingly running private military companies and recruiting and training their own battalions for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russian billionaire Viktor Shendrik, the head of the security department of Russian Railways, has reportedly been backing a detachment of Russian fighters made up of a group of football fans called “Espanyola,” according to iStories (an independent outlet also known as Important Stories or Vazhnie Istorii). Shendrik is close with the Rotenberg brothers, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg—two other Russian billionaires who are longtime friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin and who were reportedly interested in having their own private military company (PMC). Espanyola was first created last year, but Shendrik recently began sponsoring the group, sources told iStories. But the group isn’t just a security group—the group is part of the Redut PMC, which is operated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and has its own sniper, reconnaissance, and assault capabilities, according to iStories. Putin’s United Russia party took control of the PMC last year, according to an intelligence assessment from the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. And the Espanyola battalion has been fighting in Ukraine, according to the intelligence report. In fact, Espanyola’s intelligence chief was recently killed in Ukraine, the group confirmed in a social media post earlier this week. This battalion is just one example of how central PMCs are to Russia—even after the death of former Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, Sean McFate, a leading expert on mercenaries, told The Daily Beast. “The Kremlin is still using mercenaries and private force as a major tool of warfare,” McFate said. Shendrik and the Rotenberg brothers are not alone in backing PMCs that then get sent to Ukraine. Gazprom, the state-owned energy company, has been working on several private military companies behind the scenes, the BBC previously reported. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin gave Gazpromneft, an oil subsidiary of Gazprom, permission to create a private security group for its infrastructure, and the groups were tasked with protecting Gazprom-related entities. But since then, video footage has surfaced on social media showing fighters from one such battalion, called Potok or “Torrent” battalion, fighting in Ukraine. Moscow reportedly sent the group to flank Wagner Group while it assaulted Bakhmut in Ukraine.

via daily beast: Why Russia’s Elite Are Building Their Very Own Private Armies

Categories: Rechtsextremismus