The fake recruiters published ads online that imitated the real advertising of the PMC and contacted those interested in the bloody job, fishing for information on the military background of the candidates. The volunteers promised to employ the would-be Wagner mercenaries in Russia-occupied Ukrainian regions of the Donbas and Crimea as well as in Syria, African countries, and Venezuela.
During the 1.5-year-long activities of Wagner’s fake HR department, about 300 mercenaries have reportedly responded to the job proposals and handed over photographic evidence of their participation in military operations as well as data on their commanders and comrades-in-arms.
The entire operation resembles Operation Trust, a Soviet counterintelligence operation which set up a fake anti-Bolshevik resistance organization at the dawn of their power from 1921 to 1926 to identify real monarchists and anti-Bolsheviks.
The real Wagner Group
Founded by retired Russian military intelligence (GRU) Dmitry Utkin, the Wagner Group showed up itself fist in February in Crimea participating in the Russian military operation that resulted in the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula, then in late 2014 in Luhansk Oblast as an active participant of the Debaltseve Battle on the Russian side. In the occupied part of Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast, Wagner mercenaries were also used to assassinate major competitors of a Moscow-approved field commander, Igor Plotnitsky. In total, they reportedly killed more than 10 leaders of the paramilitary formations.
Later the Wagner mercenaries emerged in Syria to support local dictator Assad, and in African countries such as Sudan. The newest destination of the contractors was Venezuela, according to the sources of Reuters.
The company has been headhunting contractors all-over Russia, where mercenarism is officially illegal. However, the laws have never been a problem for the Wagner Group, which is believed to be run by a Putin’s ally, oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. The group is supplied with equipment by the Russian army and Wagner often functions as an auxiliary of the Russian military. The allegedly private army operates in all conflicts exceptionally in favor of Russia. Moreover, when the Russian regular troops are involved, the “Wagnerians” act in a fully coordinated fashion with them. Therefore, it is believed to be a unit of the Russian Defense Ministry in disguise. The Wagner’s main training base is a Russian MoD facility Molkino, Krasnodar Krai.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) revealed some details on the “Wagnerian” deployment in African countries and stated it found that the PMC is a unit of Russian army’s Main Intelligence Directorate or the GRU.
What is “Myrotvorets”
The Myrotvorets (Ukrainian for “peacemaker”) is an online database, maintained by members of the NGO having the same name which “researches signs of crimes against the national security of Ukraine, peace, human security, and the international law,” as the website states itself. The database is primarily used to collect data on the participants of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Myrotvorets Center is regularly criticized by the Russian officials and media who suggest that the personal information on the Russian citizens and Russian collaborators (“enemies of Ukraine” in Russia’s terms) is a violation of their human rights.
In 2016, Myrotvorets published a hacked list of the journalists who received “accreditation” by occupation authorities of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics (“LNR” and “DNR”), Russian-run pseudo-states in the occupied territory of eastern Ukraine. G7 ambassadors to Kyiv in their joint statement expressed “deep concern” about massive disclosures of journalists’ personal data on the Myrotvorets website and urged on the Myrotvorets team to withdraw personal data from public access, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko joined the call, as well as local human rights organizations and, finally, the list was later removed.
To maintain the database, the volunteers of the Myrotvorets Center use public materials openly available on the Internet, as well as information retrieved using the OSINT methods, the information provided by individuals on a confidential basis, as well as leaked documents by various structures of Russia, the “LNR” and “DNR.”
As of now, as Myrotvorets spokesperson Yenhen Volnov has informed Euromaidan Press, the database contains more than 150,000 of records.
The fake Wagner recruiting agency has added about 1,500 more since each of the 300 “candidates” revealed 5-6 more of his accomplices, according to Myrotvorets head Roman Zaytsev.
How the fake “agency” worked
In an interview with “Fakty i Komentarii” newspaper, head of the Myrotvorets Center Roman Zaytsev disclosed some details of the data collecting operation which kicked off in the second half of 2017.
“We created several bait websites, prepared typical ads similar to those published by Russian recruiters and started waiting. Less than a day had passed as the first ‘fish’ bit. The further the more. Almost every day, we were called and texted from almost all Russian regions,” Mr. Zaytsev explained, “When we demanded of the ‘candidates’ the evidence of their combat experience in the territories of other countries, they disclosed identities of their commanders and comrades-in-arms, with whom they participated in the occupation of Crimea and Donbas, fought in Syria – their phone numbers, call signs, numbers of passports and military IDs, other personal data.”
The potential candidates filled in questionnaires patterned after the real forms used by recruiters of the PMC Wagner, according to Roman Zaytsev. And some of the intending mercenaries reportedly sent photographs showing themselves on the foreground of the Donbas slag heaps, Crimean and Syrian landscapes.
Myrotvorets has published a two-part movie showing the audio and video footage showing how the Myrotvorets spokesperson – popular Ukrainian prankster Yevhen Volnov – and a popular video blogger Andrii Luhanskyi have recruited two potential Wagner mercenaries, residents of Siberia, directed them to Simferopol, the capital city of occupied Crimea where they were going to become Wagner mercenaries and kill Crimean Tatars for money. When the candidates flew into Crimea, the fake recruiters denounced them to local police as Ukrainian saboteurs.
Was such a collection of data unlawful? Replying to the question, Zaytsev cited Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution which says:
“Protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, ensuring its economic and information security, shall be the most important function of the State and a matter of concern for all the Ukrainian people.”
- Interactive map shows origins of Russian mercenaries fighting in Donbas
- Website PSB4UKR.ORG collects information about Putin’s terrorists
- PMC Wagner is a unit of Russian military intelligence, mercs’ IDs show – SBU chief
- New footage shows Russian PMC Wagner involved in crucial 2015 Debaltseve battle in Ukraine
- From Donbas to Syria: investigation reveals Ukrainians fighting in Russian PMC Wagner
- Identical statues to Russia’s “Wagner” mercenaries erected in Syria, occupied Donbas
- Wagner mercenaries: what we know about Putin’s private army in Donbas
- Kremlin rapidly losing control of ‘private military company’ story
- Putin’s cook Prigozhin linked to attacks on Putin critics, bloggers
- Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine and Syria decorated with state awards, cyber sleuths reveal
- Russian private military companies proliferate ‘to make money on war’
- Moscow dispatches even more ‘private military companies’ to Syria and Africa
- Russian cemeteries now feature real headstones for regular troops KIA in Ukraine
- Three largest Russian militant training facilities identified
- Putin seized Crimea with regular army but outsourced action in Donbas
- Putin may soon make ‘veterans of hybrid wars’ new symbol of Russia’s future, Shtepa says
- Russia’s “ghost” armies and the “heroes of the Russian spring” in Ukraine
- Putin’s Cook and other indictments
- Russian participation in the war in Donbas: evidence from 2017
- Ukraine names over 150 mercenaries from “Putin’s private army” fighting in Ukraine and Syria
- Russia recruited over 5,000 mercenaries to fight in its wars abroad, SBU says
- Putin comes up with another way to hide Russian combat losses
- Moscow’s private military companies continue to be a serious threat in Ukraine