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Yesterday, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper unexpectedly released yet another article on crimes against humanity committed by Wagner PMC in Syria. This time, however, instead of a fresh devastating report or investigation, we saw the sequel of an already familiar story of torturing and killing in 2017 of Syrian national Hamadi Taha Al-Boutah.
In their latest piece, journalists presented more photo evidence of the atrocities Russian mercenaries had committed, also noting that the monstrous execution took place in the vicinity of the Al-Shaer extraction field in Syria. Moreover, Russian mercenaries went as far as hanging the victim’s severed head over the gates of the gas processing plant thyy had been guarding.
You can learn more about the [not-so-]new investigation by Novaya Gazeta on their website, but there’s another thing I’d like to highlight here. Why did the publication suddenly decide to breathe new life into this high-profile story for no apparent reason? Or, to say better, what caused such a move to revive it?
Recently, PMC Wagner has been suffering defeats, both on battlefields and on the media bridgehead. There was a failed mission in Mozambique, culminating in the loss of Cape Delgado and a major death toll among Russian mercenaries. There was also strangled offensive in Libya and the encirclement of Khalifa Haftar’s forces (also including Wagnerites), near the al-Watiya airbase.
All these are isolated examples in a series of major failures of Wagner PMC in the global arena of military operations and the loss of reputation as a private military company able to professionally complete its tasks, which also discredits the Russian Federation as a whole.
Footage with tortures of a Syrian man was widely spun worldwide and created the appropriate information background for this PMC. It is now seen not as a formidable organization that should be feared, but more as a gang of scum, whom any farmers could easily knock out from occupied settlements. Also, it appears, U.S. attack helicopters could strike them without repercussions, or their own corrupt command could just get rid of their men, leaving them rotting somewhere in a ditch just not to pay them what they earned.
Against this background, a rival PMC Patriot, supervised by Russia’s defense ministry (unlike Wagner, overseen by the FSB) suddenly looks much more respectably. This PMC mostly hires military retirees and hasn’t been tarnished by dirty scandals or failed operations.
So everything falls into place. Indeed, for the fourth consecutive year Russia’s defense ministry, led by Sergei Shoigu, has been promoting PMC Patriot at the top level, at the same time exerting pressure on PMC Wagner, the brainchild of the rivaling FSB. And now, as gas and oil prices collapsed, and the Russian economy is falling into abyss at an accelerated pace, it’s about time for officials headquartered on Frunzenskaya Embankment to think about securing their financial future like never before. Indeed, even before the crisis, the infighting for the shrinking financial flows between the FSB and the RF Ministry of Defense had been quite rough, while in today’s realities, the two agencies are likely to take their beefs on Moscow streets rather than keep squabbling far beyond Russian borders.
So the Novaya Gazeta’s sequel on PMC Wagner’s crimes in Syria is nothing but a greeting card Mr Shoigu is sending Yevgeny Prigozhin, or “Putin’s Cook”, the mastermind behind this mercenary group. I’m pretty sure we will soon see an FSB response in the media domain. It’s highly possible it will be channeled through the already familiar publication The Insider. However, the era of information jabs will soon be over.