SBU Chief of Stuff Ihor Huskov has shared personal information of more than 150 mercenaries at the briefing in Kyiv on 2 November. “Today we’re sharing information about Russian mercenaries that took part in combat actions against ATO forces, particularly in the Debaltseve region,” he said.
Debaltseve is a town in Donetsk Oblast in the east of Ukraine, it is a key rail hub in the Donbas region. Ukrainian forces liberated Debaltseve in July 2014. But it was vital for Russia to organize the rail connection within the occupied area in the Donbas to supply and distribute munitions by rail from Russia. The Battle of Debaltseve erupted in late 2014 and lasted until February 2015, when the Ukrainian military left the town. The Russian-militant forces continue to occupy this town despite Debaltseve belonging to the Ukrainian government forces according to the Minsk accords. The battles continued several days after the Minsk-2 accords outlining a ceasefire were signed, most likely because the Russian-militant forces did not want to cede the crucial town connecting Donetsk with Luhansk.
The SBU had uploaded several videos they claim contain audio intercepts of conversations between “Wagner” figureheads and Russian army officials, which we have translated.
A video the SBU uploaded on 2 November (above) purports to contain an audio intercept of a conversation between “Wagner” leader Dmitri Utkin and his deputy Andrei Troshev on 14 February 2015, during the heavy battles for Debaltseve. According to Utkin, on 13 February, 11 mercenaries were wounded and two tanks were damaged. Troshev noted that the overall number of wounded “Wagner” mercenaries reached 66.
Another video uploaded by the SBU on October 7 concerned the 14 June 2014 shooting down of the military cargo airplane Il-16. At that time, the Ukrainian troops were rapidly advancing on the militant-controlled territory. In the recording, current “leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic” Igor Plotnitskiy is seemingly heard talking with one of the “Wagner” commanders Andrei Patrushev, during which the latter reports about shooting down the airplane using MRLS. Later, “Wagner” commander Dmitry Utkin is heard talking to Yevgen Nikiforov, a major general of the Russian army, on 28 January 2015. The general tells Utkin that his curator is coming, and Utkin reports of “Wagner’s” military losses.
Later, Utkin is heard talking to his deputy Andrey Troshev, supposedly on 25 February 2015, after the Russian-militant forces took Debaltseve after heavy battles on 18 February. The men discuss losses and rumors of “100 millions,” presumably rubles, that the Wagner fighters heard they were promised. Utkin says he didn’t share any promises like that and supposes that the “leaked” information is “coming directly from Molkino.” Molkino is a military polygon situated in Russia’s Rostov Oblast, which includes the 10th brigade of the of special troops of the GRU, which includes 85, 95, 551 special forces detachments, as well as a training battalion, a company of doctors and administrators. In March 2016, Russian media wrote that “Wagner” mercenaries were undergoing training on this polygon in preparation for their departure to Syria.
According to the SBU, most of the PMC militants who had fought against Ukraine were later sent by the Russian special services to Syria where they committed crimes against civilians.
The SBU presentation of the identified members of MPC Wagner.
“With such data shared, the Russian authorities would hardly reassure the world community that their mercenaries have nothing in common with those crimes, particularly in Ukraine and Syria,” concluded Ihor Guskov.
Earlier on 7 October, Head of the SBU Vasyl Hrytsak told a press briefing that the service collected a huge evidence base regarding the participation of the Russian servicemen in combat actions in the Donbas against the Ukrainian force. He stated that the SBU identified 1570 members of “Wagner” group.
The Security Service stated that the Russian PMC participated in the invasion of Crimea, the shooting down of an IL-76 above Luhansk Airport, and the capture the crucial railway hub of Debaltseve in 2014-2015.
The independent Conflict Intelligence Team (CITeam) investigates the Russian losses in Syria, discovering posts in social media. Their finds include losses sustained by PMC Wagner. The team discovered that in August and September alone, 9 “Wagner” mercenaries from Russia and beyond were killed fighting in Syria. At least two more mercenaries perished in Syria in October.
Russian mercenaries in Ukraine earned RUB 120,000 per month (approximately UAH 55,000, or $2,000).
- Wagner mercenaries: what we know about Putin’s private army in Donbas
- Moscow’s private military companies continue to be a serious threat in Ukraine
- ‘Spetsnaz of the USSR’ – the new Russian irregulars in Syria now fighting for Assad
- Putin comes up with another way to hide Russian combat losses