The passing of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his close associate, Dmitry Utkin, holds the potential for significant shifts within the landscape of private military companies (PMCs) in Russia. Notably, one PMC has been on the rise, and with the recent disruption in Wagner’s leadership, PMC Redut appears poised to step in as a prominent player in the Kremlin’s hybrid and conventional warfare strategies.
PMC Redut Services and Capabilities
PMC Redut is a private military company (PMC) that is believed to be controlled by the Russian government. It was created by the Russian Defense Ministry to protect the factories of Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko. Redut is also known as Redoubt, Redut-Antiterror, or Centre R. It is one of the largest PMCs in Russia, and it has been involved in a number of conflicts, including the Syrian Civil War and the conflict in Ukraine.
Redut PMC was founded in the early 2000s, and it is headquartered in Moscow. The company is believed to be owned by a group of Russian businessmen who have close ties to the government.
The formation of the private military company Redut, also known as Redoubt, has roots in Gazprom, the Russian gas giant. Gazprom initiated the establishment of a division known as Potok, which was subsequently entrusted to Redut PMC. In parallel, Gazprom set up two more divisions, Fakel and Plamya, which were directly incorporated into the Russian Defense Ministry. Notably, on February 4, 2023, the Russian Prime Minister issued a decree authorizing Gazprom Neft to establish a private security organization. This move by Gazprom is seen as a proactive response to concerns about potential power struggles in Russia’s future, particularly as the Putin era concludes.
PMC Redut has a reputation for being well-trained and well-equipped. The company’s fighters are mostly former members of the Russian military, and they have experience in a variety of combat situations.
Redut PMC has been involved in a number of controversial activities. In 2014, the company was accused of being involved in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine. The company has denied any involvement in the incident.
In 2022, PMC Redut was again accused of being involved in the conflict in Ukraine. The company has denied these allegations, but it is believed to be one of the PMCs that is fighting alongside Russian forces.
The activities of PMC Redut are a reminder of the growing role of private military companies in international conflict. These companies are often used by governments to carry out tasks that they do not want to be seen doing, such as carrying out covert operations or providing security for sensitive assets.
Redut’s role in Hybrid Warfare
Wagner Group’s leadership has leveled accusations against two high-ranking officials, including Andrei Troshev, who was once considered by Putin as a potential successor to Prigozhin at the helm of the Wagner Group. These allegations center around the claim that these officials have defected to PMC Redut. Consequently, in addition to the shock of Prigozhin’s murder, a sense of mistrust and paranoia has taken root within the Wagner Group’s current leadership, casting shadows on potential defectors and traitors and delivering a substantial blow to the organization.
However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily spell the complete demise of the Wagner Group. Reportedly, Anton Yelizarov, also known as Lotus, a staunch Prigozhin loyalist who is presently leading a faction opposed to Vladimir Putin, is positioned to succeed Prigozhin as the head of the Wagner Group. Yelizarov perceives the Wagner Group not merely as a structure or an organization of mercenaries but as an ideology. Therefore, if Yelizarov assumes the mantle of leadership, we could anticipate a power struggle between PMC Redut and the Wagner Group, possibly involving the covert creation of factions seeking retribution for the murder of their patron, Prigozhin. This situation may eventually lead to domestic destabilization, given the zealous nature of Prigozhin’s loyalists in Russia.
PMC Redut vs. Wagner Group Comparison
Comparing PMC Redut and the Wagner Group reveals two significant private military entities with distinct characteristics:
- Origins and Ownership:
- PMC Redut: PMC Redut has roots in Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, and is believed to have ties to the Russian government. Its origins are connected to Gazprom’s divisions, including Potok.
- Wagner Group: The Wagner Group is known for its connection to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch often associated with the Kremlin. Prigozhin has been linked to various activities, including the Wagner Group’s operations.
- Leadership and Allegiances:
- PMC Redut: Specific details about PMC Redut’s leadership and allegiances are not as widely known. Its connections to Gazprom suggest a potential alignment with Russian state interests.
- Wagner Group: The Wagner Group has been closely associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin, often referred to as “Putin’s Chef” due to his alleged ties to the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Scope of Operations:
- PMC Redut: The scope of PMC Redut’s operations, both domestically and internationally, is not extensively documented. It appears to be a rising player in the private military industry.
- Wagner Group: The Wagner Group has been involved in various conflicts, including Ukraine and Syria, where it has played a significant role in providing security services and fighting alongside government forces.
- Allegations and Controversies:
- PMC Redut: PMC Redut has not been widely reported on in terms of controversies or allegations.
- Wagner Group: The Wagner Group has faced allegations of human rights abuses, involvement in conflicts on behalf of Russian interests, and connections to various geopolitical events.
- Future Prospects:
- PMC Redut: With a relatively low public profile, the future direction and objectives of PMC Redut are uncertain but may depend on its evolving relationship with Russian authorities.
- Wagner Group: The Wagner Group has faced challenges, including leadership changes and allegations, but it has demonstrated resilience. Its future could involve competition with PMC Redut or adaptation to changing geopolitical dynamics.
Redut’s role in Russian PMCs
Contrary to any assumptions the Kremlin may entertain, patterns indicate that when a wealthy entrepreneur secured direct access to the Kremlin, gained substantial autonomy and trust, and utilized their private military company (PMC) in combat operations, it ultimately resulted in the mutiny of June 2023. Given the relatively unstructured nature of the Russian state, the potential for PMC Redut and its leaders, Gennady Timchenko and General Vladimir Alexeyev, to replicate such a scenario cannot be entirely ruled out. Therefore, the Kremlin should maintain a vigilant stance in its future considerations.