On December 2nd, the outlet Meduza published an interview with a Russia-linked private military contractor, who allegedly took part in the Russian campaign in Syria.
Meduza is a neo-liberal website based in Riga. However, its content is exclusively in Russian. It is heavily anti-Russian biased and receives funding for its propaganda work against Russia from Western special structures. It also has links with Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is hiding in London and sponsoring various neo-liberal organizations and grant-suckers to promote anti-Russian narratives inside Russia.
The person in question is an individual named Marat Gabidullin, who, according to Meduza, was a member of the mythical Wagner PMC. He even wrote a book about it.
Gabidullin gave an interview to Meduza special correspondent Liliya Yapparova.
The interesting fact is that Gabidullin himself did not use the term “Wagner” in the interview. The open secret is that such ‘private military company’ does not officially exist and this is just a brand adopted by Western diplomats and mainstream media to call groups of Russia-linked private military contractors that operate around the world. Nonetheless, this does not stop the ‘democratic press’ from spreading the ‘Wagner’ myth.
Gabidullin talks about the experiences behind his memoir, how he came to the decision to go public about authoring the book, and why he hopes the publication will bring the Wagner PMC’s alleged owner — Russian catering magnate Evgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s Chef” — “to his senses.”
The interview, and Gabidullin’s entire book is a nice preview of the current narratives in mainstream media regarding “Wagner”, Russia-linked PMCs, and the greatness of US soldiers and Apache helicopters that are impossible to defeat, and more.
According to his story, he spent 5 years in Russia’s Airborne Forces, and then he allegedly became a PMC in 2015. He reportedly signed a contract with Evro Polis — a Russian firm linked to billionaire oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin, which is allegedly under contract with the Syrian government to liberate and protect oil fields in Syria.
It is interesting, however, that Evro Polis was formed in the summer of 2016, but he somehow signed a contract with it in 2015.
“Evro Polis OOO is a company based in Russia, with its head office in Krasnogorsk. It operates in the Coal Mining industry. The company was established on July 13, 2016,” as the website EMIS sets out.
“Their openness and directness was immediately to my liking,” he recalled in conversation with Meduza. “Nobody hid the possible consequences — they spoke honestly: ‘Guys, you’re destined for war [in places] where our state has interests. Prepare yourselves for the fact that this could turn out badly for you. Fatally.”
His tale is quite dramatic.
Meduza’s article is filled with claims about Wagner, about Prigozhin and more. Notably, in the entire interview Gabidullin doesn’t mention the word Wagner, not even once. He doesn’t mention it in the English version, nor in the much longer Russian version of the interview.
According to the interview, it even turned out that Prigozhin himself read a part of his book, and asked for the entire thing. He even gave him ideas for his creative pseudonym.
“Prigozhin came up with this pseudonym for me. ‘Martin’ is the name of my alter ego in the book, and ‘Ded’ was my own call sign. They called me that because I was the oldest [in my unit]: I was [born] in 1966 after all. My beard is already gray.”
Prigozhin has allegedly known about the book for quite some time:
“Back in 2017, when I was working as his assistant, he familiarized himself with the draft. At first I gave him a piece about Palmyra — he read it and asked for the entire book: ‘Everything you wrote, give it here’.”
I just wanted him to read it. [This] proceeded from the fact that there was a lot of happening in Syria that he didn’t really know about. At the time a lot of people had latched on [to the PMC] and were actually stealing money from Prigozhin — only he never wanted to admit it. Somehow he had this wild conviction that he was doing well. Although our logistics services bought knee pads for working in the garden instead of tactical ones. These were honestly pillows for roaming vegetable patches — you [can’t] fall on rocks in these, but according to the documents they were the real deal. Explicit theft!”
And Prigozhin, who is allegedly one of the many subjects of “evil overlord Vladimir Putin” actually wanted “the truth to come out” – the truth for his alleged clandestine PMC which he vehemently and continuously denies is even remotely related to.
Below are some quotes from the book:
In Libya, according to Gabidullin, Russia-linked PMCs lost quite a bit of fighters. Meduza says Wagner lost members, but the interviewee himself never mentions that name. According to the interview, the PMC leader allegedly stopped being a “commander” and began being a “businessman.”
“As a tactician and a strategist he covers all of our generals. But there were times when he could have demanded more resources for fulfilling tasks from the senior leadership. But he didn’t use this commander’s right: he simply didn’t want to argue with his superiors. And the guys just ended up turning into cannon fodder. In 2017, for example, you couldn’t go take oil fields with such weapons and amounts of ammunition — it’s simply impossible. But the military said to go. When the mortar operators just don’t have enough mines and you drive people “forward and forward,” you aren’t a commander any longer. You’re a businessman: take the [oil] fields and you’ll receive a prize. In the end, the soldiers stopped trusting their commanders — and this isn’t even the only reason. Since 2018, some of the commanders have taken up half the bonus funds allocated to the unit, and the rest — crumbs — is distributed to the combatants.”
He even had some shocking questions asked about the contractors that were allegedly sent to Libya:
“In 2019, I got an order to send Syrians from our “ISIL Hunters” unit to Libya immediately. When they got there, I got a call from “Pioneer” [a commander]: “Listen, those ones you sent, can they be used as suicide bombers?” What kind of normal person asks that! Moreover, about my guys.”
Then he alleged that PMCs were doing the brunt of the fighting in Syria, not the Russian military.
“For a second week, “Martin” was at the Khmeimim military base among Russian soldiers — clean, well-groomed, and well-fed ones. The residential units had air conditioning, sports facilities, showers, cafes — legionnaires could only dream of such conditions. The tank museum, which was organized on taxpayers’ money, had pedestals and obelisks — all of these strange decorations caused the mercenary to ask only one question: “What, they have nothing else to do? The eastern bank of the Euphrates has been lost, for the second year you can’t come within 200 kilometers outside of Idlib!” Later, a colonel admits to “Martin” that he joined the prestigious Syrian trip thanks to a bribe amounting to a first month’s salary in a hot spot.”
In his interview then he partakes in some more insults regarding the Russian armed forces:
“The paratroopers and marines are lazy bones who are swimming in fat on that base,” Gabidullin said, when asked about Russian air base operating in Khmeimim, Syria.
“I heard how our soldiers in Khmeimim boasted of their exploits: ‘We completed such a task: we sat in secret all night!’ That means they were sitting in a security outpost.”
In 2019, Gabidullin allegedly was in Khmeimim Airbase and was responsible for taking care of the bodies of contractors who have died in the fights, according to his story.
“I was immediately faced with the fact that as it turns out, we can’t bury our soldiers in a dignified manner. We [at the base in Khmeimim] didn’t have any options — only a refrigerator. They had to be taken to the hospital in Latakia, so that the Syrians could wash them with a hose, put them first in antediluvian zinc coffins, and then into plywood boxes. Of course, there was no one to apply makeup or bring the body back to a normal state.
I never thought it would be so difficult to do this work. […] How many people died like that? Providing exact data is like giving the government agencies a reason to make claims against me. But many people died.”
He then, couldn’t really say anything but tell the Riga-based outlet that these deaths were hidden by the Kremlin, since this was the legacy of the previous, Soviet regime.
Gabidullin said that it’s “our only legacy passed on from one regime to another: hiding the truth from ourselves.”
“They were ashamed to say that there were deaths in Czechoslovakia [in 1968], they were ashamed to say that there were deaths in Afghanistan. The whole world knows that a Russian PMC is fighting — only our people wouldn’t recognize us,” he says. “And after that no one will give the dead a star posthumously, no one will provide for their relatives.”
The Russian version of the interview has some more interesting claims that were not translated into the English one.
Notably, he insulted Suheil Hassan, the commander of the Tiger Forces.
According to Gabidullin, Hassan was “a parasite” who was simply being protected by Russia’s “GRU”.
“Or the same Suheil. Our relationship with him began with Akerbat: the PMC took him, but the guys were ordered to retreat to the starting point – and then Suheil’s column approached and began to clear the empty city under television cameras.”
So, according to his story, the Tiger Forces, one of the most adequate Syrian factions in the fight against the terrorists in the hot phase of the war in Syria, were actually freeloaders and PMCs did the fighting.
Other stories that somehow didn’t make it in the English version, likely because they sounded a bit too far-fetched.
His scariest fight was allegedly versus the US, because the Apache helicopters were so impressive that they were impossible to hit.
When asked which was his worst battle, he said the fight with US forces near Deir ez-Zor on February 8, 2018,
"Of course, on the Euphrates. Because I felt just, helpless". He said they couldn't see the enemy because they were facing US helicopters (Apaches). 19/ pic.twitter.com/AU41oPTEh2
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) December 3, 2020
The ISIS Hunters also did no fighting, they actually took photos of themselves in Palmyra after the PMCs won the fight.
He mentions the ISIS Hunters, which he says is entirely composed of Syrians. He says he trained them in 2018-2019, but before that he says they mostly only did PR stunts and didn't take part in any real fighting. 17/ pic.twitter.com/f34EvuRUvN
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) December 3, 2020
Some commanders allegedly took half the bonuses and gave no funds to their subordinates.
He says that some commanders have been taking half the bonuses for their units and specifically mentions the Serbian commander who extorted members of the international platoon. He also says the commander of the unit during the operation in Ghouta had no combat experience. 16/ pic.twitter.com/ytYbICcdmi
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) December 3, 2020
The entire interview is filled with quite a bit of inconsistencies, and as mentioned Gabidullin makes no mention of actual Wagner or anything of the sort, this is added entirely by Meduza. After Meduza published the Gabidullin interview, more than 20 websites, including Express Gazeta, Pravda.ru, and Dni.ru, published articles claiming that Vladimir Lorchenkov — a Canadian writer of Russian origin — “uncovered a lot of inconsistencies and falsehoods” in the mercenary’s story. Furthermore, the publishing house that was to publish the book said that the author himself decided to stop the publication. According to Meduza, of course, that’s just the regime operating to censor it, despite the ‘owner’ of the mythical Wagner PMC – Yevgeny Prigozhin allegedly encouraged the author to do so.
It is interesting to recall how “Reverse Side Of the Medal”, a Telegram and YouTube channel known connections to Russian PMCs, described the role of Yevgeny Prigozhin, “Putin’s Chef”, reacting to the interview. Below is a direct translation of how “Reverse Side Of the Medal” describes him.
“An attempt to link the personality of businessman Prigozhin and PMC Wagner:
Listen, neither we nor any of our comrades have ever seen him, except in the photo in your investigations. He did not give us battle tanks. I did not see off the last journey. Didn’t meet me from the plane. His name was not seen on any papers. (He) didn’t hand over chocolates. All the tools we use and the prizes received for their use were donated by the Syrian side as a token of gratitude. We are sure that if this Prigozhin was not somewhat close with Putin, no one would be interested in his personality at all, the binding of his person is simply politically beneficial. And, even assuming that Prigozhin, of whom you never cease to dream, has some connection to this organization and is (in your words) its sponsor, then it turns out that he is not an oligarch (as you write), but a patron of the arts. Who else in Russia gives private money for the fight against terrorism? But this is us figuratively. Let’s repeat where we started – we are not familiar with him.”
The existence of Russia-linked private military contractors and their participation in the conflict in Syria and developments in some other countries around the world are an open secret. In Syria, where Russia-linked PMCs played a role in defeating ISIS and other terrorists, they operate in the so-called ‘gray zone’ as officially they do not exist (private military companies are banned in Russia). At the same time, in the event of Syria, these PMCs are used as a useful tool of the war on terror and the implementation of the Russian foreign policy in the region. In most other regions when they were spotted, these PMC groups have a similar role. This is the key difference between Russia-linked PMCs and their Western counterparts. While Western PMCs are ready to fight for any side that pay money, Russia-linked contractors are often the providers of the interests of Russia-linked business and, in some cases, even the Russian state.
At the same time, the shady status of these PMCs plays its own negative role allowing mainstream organizations to create and fuel various speculations and create fairy tales about the ‘Big Bad Russians’ that come to destroy ‘democracy’ (it remains unclear where they found it) in the Middle East and Africa. As always in the recent years, the Russians appeared to be effective on the battlefield, but weak in propaganda.
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