A mercenary fighting force led by Russian military intelligence is likely to fill the void left by the Wagner Group, whose volatile founder Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly died in a plane crash Wednesday.
With the group now leaderless — as at least seven others, including a high-ranking Wagner commander, are also believed to have died in the crash — other private Russian security “firms” are expected to vie to take its place.
The most likely candidate to take over Wagner’s missions and business assets is Redut, a mercenary group controlled by Russian intelligence which began as an arrangement between oligarchs with Kremlin ties and top army brass, The Telegraph reported.
In evidence submitted to the U.K. House of Commons foreign affairs committee last month, a former senior Russian army officer and Wagner fighter said Redut was created to protect factories that had been acquired by Gennady Timchenko, a former KGB agent and Putin-linked oligarch.
“The godfather for this project, Timchenko, was proposed by the Russian military,” the former KGB officer wrote.
Redut’s operation was not initially a large one, according to the former intelligence officer, who said Redut deployed in Syria in two teams, one of 55 men and another of 65, although that began to change during the invasion of Ukraine, when Russia the military set out to find a mercenary force to reduce their reliance on the Wagner Group.
Who was Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin?
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin as a talented businessman following the plane crash that apparently killed him.
Prigozhin was the owner of the private military contractor Wagner Group.
Prigozhin planned to capture the Russian military’s top officials during his attempted coup.
Prigozhin and his mercenary fighting force did not face charges and were instead exiled despite leading an armed insurrection against the Kremlin.
Prigozhin began his career as a petty criminal — he was convicted of robbery and assault in 1981 and served 12 years in prison.
He criticized the Russian Ministry of Defense as incompetent and accused it of withholding arms and ammunition from his troops, who were fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine.
Prigozhin was indicted in the United States for interfering in the 2016 presidential election through his infamous internet “troll factory.”
The group, led by former head of Wagner intelligence Anatoly Karazi, has since been recruiting leaders from Prigozhin’s fighting force in the wake of the aborted mutiny led by Prigohzin in June.
Andrei Troshev, the highest-ranking Wagner commander after Tuesday’s plane crash, has already reportedly taken a job at Redut, which is not the only mercenary group looking to take over where Wagner left off.
Others include a private military group called Convoy, which was created by the Kremlin-appointed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, sometime in 2022.
The group, which takes its name from the Cossack bodyguard for the Tsars, the Imperial Convoy, is led by Konstantin Pikalov, another former Prigohzin crony, and has already fought in Ukraine’s Kherson region.
The group has recently been advertising on its Telegram channel for work in Africa, which is where the Wagner Group was conducting missions.
Meanwhile, there are also military groups run by corporations including Fakel and Potok, which are funded by the Russia state-owned hydrocarbons giant, Gazprom.
Gazprom has not publicly acknowledged the existence of the pair of private military groups and some reports suggest they have been recently folded into Redut.