We’re not mercenaries, we’re book publishers and management consultants, says the Russian mercenary group Wagner as they emerge from the shadows
- Wagner has registered as a company in Russia for the first time
- Running a mercenary group or private military companies is illegal in Russia
- The mercenary group has instead referred to itself as a “business consultant”.
The Russian hitman group Wagner, which sent thousands of criminals into Ukraine, has said it is not a mercenary company but a firm of business consultants and book publishers.
Controversial CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin built the armed militia during the Syrian conflict, when his men were deployed to defend Russian interests in the country.
Now the Kremlin has ordered Prigozhin to send troops to support Russia’s stalled offensive in Ukraine, where the mercenaries have been accused of murdering civilians.
Prigozhin reportedly recruits men from Russian prisons and offers them pardons if they complete their military service.
The Russian mercenary company Wagner Group has registered as a company in Russia for the first time, pictured Wagner boss Yevheny Prizgozhin, left, with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Prigozhin, pictured, registered the firm as a “business consultancy” because it is illegal to run private military companies in Russia
According to The Telegraph, the ChVK Wagner Center was registered as a company in Russia primarily focused on “business consulting”.
Under Russian law, running a mercenary company is illegal.
Wagner is currently recruiting in Serbia and even running ads in local media looking for volunteers to fight against Ukraine.
Serbia and Belarus are the only two countries in Europe that have not joined sanctions against Russia.
However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has condemned the recruitment drive.
The criticism marks a rare public rebuke by the Serbian leader towards Russia – a staunch ally of the Balkan country.
The controversial ad appeared earlier this month on the Serbian subsidiary of Russian state media company RT.
A small number of Serbs have fought alongside Russian-backed forces in Ukraine since fighting first broke out in the country in 2014.
The exact number of Serbs who fought in Ukraine has never been disclosed by official bodies.
Controversial CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin built the armed militia during the Syrian conflict, when his men were deployed to defend Russian interests in the country
Serbia has long been a reliable ally of Moscow, with a shared Orthodox heritage, mutual hatred of NATO, and military alliances throughout multiple wars that strengthen their ties.
Alongside Belarus, Serbia remains the only European country that has not joined the Western sanctions against Moscow.
On Tuesday, Russia’s RIA news agency released footage that appeared to show two Serbian nationals attending a weapons training course in Ukraine.
The Wagner mercenary force, formed in 2014 and involved in conflicts in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, came to light after President Vladimir Putin deployed troops to Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Tens of thousands of Russians have resettled in Serbia since the outbreak of war, where most have been warmly welcomed.
Despite the arrival of renegade Russians fleeing the conflict, Serbs remain by and large fervent supporters of the invasion of Ukraine, with pro-Kremlin rallies being held in the capital, Belgrade.