August 10, 2023

Lords of War


Lords of War
Russian soldiers wearing Ratnik infantry combat system.  Vitaly V.Kuzmin, Wikipedia Commons

According to independent news outlet Vazniye Istorii ("Important Stories"), companies associated with Oleg Deripaska, Leonid Mikhelson, Sergey Gordeyev, Mikhail Gutseriyev, and other Russian oligarchs have been recruiting men for the war in Ukraine. In partnership with the Russian Ministry of Defense, the oligarchs continue to employ the enlistees and pay their wages.

The report conducted by Vazniye Istorii highlighted the case of Igor Sergienko, a fighter in the Sokol volunteer battalion, who found employment with a private security company linked to Oleg Deripaska. Sergienko’s salary of R200,000 ($2000) per month was paid to him by the Ministry of Defense, and an additional R100,000 ($1000) was paid by the private security company. His recruitment was facilitated through a company closely associated with the aluminum giant Rusal.

The scheme used by Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, is similar. Owned by billionaires Leonid Mikhelson and Gennady Timchenko, Novatek enlists "volunteers" in private security companies and pays them R300,000 ($3000) per month through the Muzhestvo ("Manliness") Fund, on top of their salary from the Ministry of Defense.

Other companies involved in military personnel recruitment are connected with oligarchs Sergey Gordeyev and Mikhail Gutseriyev. For instance, the construction giant PIK offers "volunteers" R400,000 ($4000) upon signing a contract and an additional R100,000 ($1000) per month for those serving in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Mospromstroy company pays R200,000 ($2000) upon contract signing and R150,000 ($1500) for each month spent in combat.

It’s worth noting that this recruitment approach is not new, as state-owned companies like Mosgaz, Moscow Metro, Gormost, and Mosvodokanal have previously entered into similar contracts with "volunteers." However, the involvement of private companies is a new development. Surprisingly, some of these companies are not currently under full international sanctions, as exemplified by Novatek, which only faces sanctions from the United States. In fact, in 2022, Novatek increased its supply of liquefied gas to Europe.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Russian authorities launched a large-scale recruitment campaign for the army: the governors and the Ministry of Defense were tasked with attracting some 400,000 soldiers. Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev recently announced that more than 231,000 men have already been recruited. Experts, however, doubt the veracity of such figures.

At the same time, the State Duma recently raised the draft age for conscripts and those mobilized, increased fines, and restricted travel abroad for those who have received a draft summons. In addition, the government plans punish anyone who evades military service with imprisonment of up to five years. This may signal that contract recruitment is not going as well as authorities claim.

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