After the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Moscow also launched a hybrid war against Western nations. With the aim of destabilizing the political, economic, and social situation in the countries of the European Union, Russia employs various tools, starting from circulating fake provocative news in the EU information space and up to creating and financing private military companies and criminal cells ready to perform Moscow’s instructions across Europe.
Despite the fact that mercenaries are officially prohibited in Russia at the legislative level and face criminal prosecution, there are more than a dozen private military or, as they refer to themselves, «security» companies operating in the country. The most infamous of them is the «Wagner» Group, created by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who obtained support and financing from the top management of Rosneft. Gazprom also created its own private military company: considering the profits of the corporation, one can only imagine the scale of opportunities that will open up before the new recruits.
Mercenaries of the Redut Antiterror PMC, created in 2008, were spotted in Ukraine war zones. In 2018, another PMC, Patriot, appeared, believed to be affiliated with the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu. Also in 2016, the «Edinye narodnye obshchinnye tovarichestva» organization was founded, which was intended to contribute to the military-patriotic education of youths. However, militants from the «E.N.O.T.» organization took part in combat operations in Ukraine, Syria, and Azerbaijan. And this list is far from final. Most of these criminal organizations ostensibly provide military consulting services in areas with high terrorist and military activity but in fact they penetrate into many countries around the world to protect the Kremlin’s interests.
The geography of regions where Russia employs its mercenaries significantly expanded after 2015. Before that, private military companies were involved in only a few countries but after 2015, they were deployed to dozens. In 2019-2021, Moscow used militants in approximately 30 countries. And Moscow does not stop there as mercenaries are now surfacing in European countries as well.
It’s obvious that the Russian authorities have chosen this type of terrorism posing a real threat to Western democracies. The most effective way of fighting it off is the introduction of tough and uncompromising sanctions against Russia’s state-owned and non-state corporations directly involved in financing similar organizations and private military companies. If the profits of these corporations drop accordingly, the allocation of funds to various PMCs, which conduct intelligence and subversive operations on Western soil will significantly decrease.