Russia expanding mercenary network to destabilize Europe

Moscow is actively building up a clandestine network of militants prepared any moment to stand on the side of destructive forces in various European countries, seeking to destabilize them. They form «combat brigades», consisting of mercenaries from Russia’s private military companies (PMCs). Among them are plenty of ex-security operatives from post-Soviet and post-socialist countries, including the former Yugoslavia.

Among the members of these «combat brigades» are male Russians who were instructed to move to European countries under the guise of draft dodgers. They could be tasked with assassinating major political figures, organizing and participating in mass riots, as well as reactivating «smoldering conflicts.» Under the pretext of rallies, pickets, and demonstrations, they create conditions for the sharp radicalization and criminalization of European societies, which sometimes leads to ugly riots. One day, they could intensify work to spark armed anti-government action (read more:

The main cover for the Russian «combat brigades» are post-Soviet ethnic diasporas, various associations of «Russophiles,» and branches of Rossotrudnichestvo or other agencies alike. In order to exert influence on European governments, the Russian special services set up contacts with the Russian crime rings covertly operating across Europe.

Most of the Russian PMCs are affiliated with the Ministry of Defense, FSB, or military intelligence. Also, PMCs are already being set up by Russia’s state-owned enterprises and corporations, including Gazprom, Rosneft, and others. The geography of PMCs’ criminal activity over the past five years has expanded significantly. In 2019-2021 alone, Russia’s mercenaries operated in nearly 30 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia.

The fact that Crimea became one of the training bases for «combat brigades», including those with the Wagner Group, assumes the ongoing effort to bring malign elements as close as possible to the borders of European nations, primarily to post-Soviet and post-socialist republics. Due to its logistically convenient location, Crimea seem to be just the right place from which members of «combat brigades» could be deployed in Türkiye, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Balkans.

Despite the fact that the branch of the Wagner Group is officially present only in Serbia, the analysis of the recent riots in a number of European countries suggests the concealed presence of a significant number of destructive elements, which Russia finances and supplies with weapons and forged IDs.

Due to significant losses in the war raging in Ukraine, the Russian PMCs intensified their efforts to recruit mercenaries in Türkiye, Serbia, Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Moldova, and across Latin America. The British publication Middle East Eye wrote about this back in October 2022. The recruitment campaign is being run through Europe-based Russian oligarchs and their intermediaries who are in contact with local mobs. Candidates are lured by hefty salaries, being offered up to $10,000 in monthly allowance.

Russia can use these mercenaries rather than in the war in Ukraine, but to warm up and destabilize the domestic political situation in European countries. So, about ten days ago, a representative of «Wagner» was detained at Chisinau airport in Moldova, whom the Moldovan law enforcement officers suspected of planning to destabilize the situation against the background of pro-Russian rallies in the country.

Russian PMCs, in particular «Wagner», may also be involved in inciting the migration crisis in Europe. This was stated by the Minister of Defense of Italy, Guido Crosetto. Thus, since the beginning of 2023, about 20 thousand migrants from Africa have arrived on the shores of Italy, while in 2022 — only 6 thousand. Most of them are from those regions of Africa where the «Wagner» PMCs are located.

After accusing Russian mercenaries of staging a migration crisis, the Italian news outlet Il Foglio reported that Russia was plotting to assassinate Italian Defense Minister Guido Crozetto and that the Wagner Group was employed to do the job. Therefore, the very fact of a G7 nation senior official reportedly becoming a target of a Russian transnational criminal group requires increased attention to the these “private military organizations.”

The latest developments around the Russian PMCs were marked by the murder of nine Chinese nationals at a China-operated gold mine in the Central African Republic. This is the latest in the series of grave crimes that the Wagner Group is accused of.

Today, Russian PMCs pose a significant threat to all of Europe. After all, their mercenaries could spark major political destabilization in any country.