In Russia, Mercenaries Are a Strategic Tool

Companies like the Wagner Group fill in certain security blanks.

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Belarusian intelligence has accused Russia of sending private citizens to interfere in the country’s affairs and generally engage in acts of provocation. These same citizens participated in the annexation of Crimea a few years ago and fought on Russia’s behalf in the breakaway region of Donbass, according to officials in Ukraine, who demanded their immediate extradition to Kyiv. Instead, the Belarusian government sent them back to Russia. To no one’s surprise, the citizens were members of the infamous private military company known as the Wagner Group, which over the past few years has been involved in every international conflict strategically important to Russian interests. The case of Belarus and Ukraine – the first instance on record of Wagner operating so close to NATO’s eastern flank – underscores just how useful a political tool Wagner has become for the Kremlin. Organization and Formalization Private military companies are by no means unique to Russia, but Wagner has a unique Russian flavor. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the concomitant depression left thousands of Russian soldiers rudderless. They were unemployed but well trained and ready to fight, so they informally banned together in the 1990s to sell their services throughout Eurasia. By […]

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Ridvan Bari Urcosta
Mr. Urcosta joins Geopolitical Futures as an analyst with wide experience in the Black Sea region, Russia and the Middle East, Ukraine and Crimea as a geopolitical region and Eastern Europe. He is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Warsaw and he also teaches an independent ERASMUS course: “Russia and the Middle East: Geopolitics and Diplomacy.” He was born in Abkhazia, Georgia where he lived until the onset of the Civil War. In the early 1990’s he moved to Crimea where he lived until its annexation by Russia. At the moment of annexation he worked in the Sevastopol State Administration. Right after annexation he worked as a Human Rights Officer in Odessa, Ukraine in the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission. Mr. Urcosta graduated from the Estonian Diplomatic Academy in 2015 and completed The Indigenous Fellowship Programme (IFP) in 2017, a comprehensive human rights training program, that was established by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. In 2018 he gave a speech at the UN Human Rights Council about the human rights situation in annexed by Russian Federation Crimea. Previously Mr. Urcosta has provided insights to different analytical centers including the European Council on Foreign Relations, Jamestown Foundation, War Room (U.S. War College) The Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute), Jerusalem Post and others. He previously worked as an assistant to the Head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, a single supreme plenipotentiary representative and executive body of the Crimean Tatar people. He speaks Polish, Russian, English, Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar and Turkish. Moreover, Ridvan works as Senior analyst at the Polish think tank "Strategy&Future" with Jacek Bartosiak (Warsaw, Poland).