Saturday, February 24, 2018

Russian Private Military Companies Rapidly Growing Sector, Participants and Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 24 – Private military companies are a highly profitable growth sector because both the Russian government and business increasingly rely on them, their employees and outside experts say. And because of that, Duma members say, the government will soon legalize them so as to be able to tax them too.

            Mikhail Bely, a journalist for the URA news agency, says that ever more men are applying to work for these companies even though they are illegal in Russia and thus any employee could be charged with violating the country’s restrictions against mercenary activity and facing 15 years in prison (

                These companies have increased both in size and in number, with many of them working abroad guarding ships from pirates in the Indian Ocean, some world leaders like Bashar Asad of Syria, and providing guidance and training to foreign militaries and businesses. Sometimes, employees say, they work abroad for the Russian government as well.

            One private military company employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the reasons the firms were growing so quickly just now including: rising unemployment in Russia forcing people to take what jobs they can get, an expanding number of military conflicts, and the difficulties military and police retirees face finding jobs.

            There are more applicants than positions, however, and so the companies can be highly selective. Only those with sterling backgrounds and good skills will be offered positions. Many who do get jobs don’t understand the risks: if they get in trouble abroad, the Russian government often can’t do anything for them – and they can’t sue the companies.

            Iosif Linder, president of the International Counter-Terrorist Association, says that private military companies are invariably closely tied to governments and their security services. “It cannot be otherwise.”  Some invest in these companies; others find it easier to hire people, have them die at work, and then hire more.

            Some think that mercenaries get rich, but that’s not the case. Yes, they make 3000 to 4000 US dollars a month, a lot by Russian standards, Linder says; but employees aren’t going to become “multi-millionaires.” 

            According to Sergey Sudakov, a candidate member of the Academy of Military Sciences, says that “the legalization of private military companies in Russia is extremely necessary.” He urges Moscow to copy the US approach in using such structures because that will allow Russia to solve many problems that are now beyond its capacity.

            The most important reason for legalization, he continues, is that it will create additional jobs and give those who have them social guarantees that they or their heirs can defend in court. 

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