The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has identified nearly 40 Ukrainian citizens in the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), according to material published on Donbas.Realii.
“The Security Service of Ukraine has information that during the formation of a contingent of the so-called Wagner PMC to be sent to Syria, there was a separate group of people originating from Ukraine, who were nominally designated the ‘Karpaty’,” said Ihor Huskov, head of the SBU chairman’s office.
“This is the attacking core. People who have combat experience in the Donbas are sent into the thick of it. The Karpaty-Vesna go first. I don’t know why, but they are always sent first, like cannon fodder,” said former Donetsk People’s Republic militant Mikhail Polynkov in an interview with the separatist media.
The Russian news outlet Fontanka claims that initially the “Karpaty” division was created to carry out acts of sabotage in the rear of the Ukrainian army, but this idea was abandoned due to the division’s poor training. Instead, the Ukrainians were sent into Syria.
In 2017, the group joined the Vesna division which had 100-150 people. Apart from Ukrainians, the group was joined by inhabitants of the “Cossack” regions of Russia and 15-20 natives of the Chechen Republic.
It is not clear how many Ukrainians have been killed in Syria. The SBU has information on the deaths of three Ukrainian citizens between March and April 2016: Eduard Prykhodko from Horlivka, Oleksandr Konashenkov from Novohradivka, and Oleksandr Kyyashko from Donetsk.
The death toll is likely to be higher, and include more than just Donbas residents. “After meeting the guys who liberated Palmyra, I heard a detail that 11 Ukrainians had died during the battle for Palmyra. Another clarifying question: Were they Ukrainian citizens from the territories controlled by the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics? No, they were from innermost part of Ukraine. People who had some kind of legal problems with Ukraine disappeared into Russia and found asylum in the so-called Wagner PMC,” wrote Novaya Gazeta journalist Irek Murtazin.
The Wagner PMC was created in 2014 by Russian reserve Colonel Dmitry Utkin. Initially the mercenaries fought in the Donbas on the side of the pro-Russian militants, and later they went to Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry does not acknowledge that PMC fighters are involved in the operation in Syria.
The group is thought to be connected to the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef”. Earlier, someone by Utkin’s name was appointed CEO of the company “Concord Management and Consulting”, the company which manages Prigozhin’s restaurant business. Prigozhin himself denies having any connection to the Wagner PMC.