Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom now supplies more than just natural gas.
According to the Wall Street Journal, it is actively helping provide manpower to the frontlines of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
First authorized by the Kremlin to do so in early February, the energy giant has spent recent months establishing private security companies and recruiting additional troops for Russia’s war, often fighting under the directive of the Defense Ministry.
Though the security firms were founded on the pretext of defending Russia’s energy sector, recruits ended up in Ukraine weeks later, WSJ reported.
Some in the group, made up of former soldiers and company security personnel, were forcibly recruited, adding they they were trained at a Russian base, and shipped off to Bakhmut, the area of eastern Ukraine that has seen the fiercest fighting in recent months.
“I want to tell my colleagues at Gazprom: Don’t go to Ukraine, stay at home,” a former Gazprom security guard, who was sent to Ukraine and was injured, said in a video obtained by WSJ.
Gazprom didn’t respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
Compared to the Wagner Group — a private militia of 50,000 that has played a significant role in Russia’s military effort — Gazprom’s collective force is smaller, accounting for thousands of recruits. However, they are paid higher wages and tend to be better trained.
The energy firm’s efforts may also provide some solution to Russia’s growing manpower shortage, as President Vladimir Putin seems reluctant to issue another mobilization decree, the WSJ said.
But interest in private security groups is growing in Russia, with other mercenary forces fighting in Ukraine. This includes recruits from former security contractor Redut, and from Patriot, an established private security force.
Meanwhile, Gazprom has had a difficult year in energy markets, as the Ukraine war led to Western sanctions and restricted trade.
Last year, the Kremlin also cut off Europe from most gas supplies delivered via pipeline, though Russia still exports liquefied natural gas. In January, the company said revenue was nearly $3 billion lower than in the previous year.
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