The usual post-Soviet army woes – ethic and religious tensions, violent hazing rituals, and corruption – are forcing the Russian military machine to rely more and more on private military companies (PMCs) like the Wagner Group, editor at Defense Express, Valery Ryabykh told NV Radio on Oct. 16.
“The Russian army has been dealing with these problems before, especially in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse,” said Ryabykh.
“Back in the 90s, their army was rife with violent internal clashes, on ethnic grounds – Azeris versus Armenians, Chechen riots. Any army is a social snapshot of the country it’s supposed to defend; it reflects corresponding social tensions.”
According to Ryabykh, Russian law ostensibly provides for consciences objectors refusing to do military service. And yet, the expert said he was not aware of any attempts to exercise this right.
“It all hinges on the very psyche of (Russia’s) population,” he said.
“The Russian law provides several legal ways to avoid mobilization… But people there simply do not believe anything can be achieved through legal action, so they continue following the path laid out before them.”
Ryabykh noted that PMCs – like the Wagner Group, run by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s confidant Yevgeny Prigozhin – are barely regulated by Russian laws. The growing media attention to Prigozhin’s company serves to “legitimize” it, to a certain extent.
“It’s unclear what circumscribes the authority of this company,” the expert added.
“We saw prisoners (recruited by Wagner) deployed to Ukraine, to be subsequently granted pardons for their participation in the war. This activity does not correspond to any legal norms – Russian or otherwise. It makes sense then, that considerable effort is put into making sure the Wagner Group dominates media discourse. As the influence of the Russian army wanes in the Kremlin, such paramilitaries become ascendant.”