NewsRussia's shadow army: Mercenaries and state-backed groups in Ukraine conflict

Russia's shadow army: Mercenaries and state-backed groups in Ukraine conflict

DONETSK OBLAST, UKRAINE - MARCH 04: Remains of an explosive charge is seen as the war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for the last two years, in the direction of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on March 04, 2024. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images)
DONETSK OBLAST, UKRAINE - MARCH 04: Remains of an explosive charge is seen as the war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for the last two years, in the direction of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on March 04, 2024. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Anadolu

2:47 AM EST, March 5, 2024

Beyond the conventional armed forces, reserve units, and prisoners involved in war activities in Ukraine, Russia also harbors numerous mercenary groups. These groups receive funding from both corporations and state agencies, featuring individuals ranging from martial artists to extreme right-wing football fans.

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Reports from independent media have disclosed the Uran battalion, financially backed by the Russian State Space Corporation, Roskosmos. The Sojuz unit, filled with professional martial artists, garners support from the state-owned Sberbank and the nuclear energy corporation Rosatom. Moreover, the late founder of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, highlighted connections between private military companies and the energy titan Gazprom before his demise.

According to the independent portal iStories, Viktor Shendrik, who leads the security department at the state-run railway monopoly Russian Railways, is funding the battalion Española. This unit, consisting of Russian hooligans, is currently active in Ukraine.

Española, initially a volunteer battalion of football enthusiasts with extreme right-wing ideologies, was part of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic." By February 2024, Española evolved into a private military company, equipped with reconnaissance, assault, artillery, electronic warfare units, drones, and snipers.

Putin is mobilizing forces

In early December last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to increase the army's size by 15 percent. This move is attributed to "growing threats to Russia" related to its "special military operation and the ongoing NATO expansion."

The current decree states that the Russian armed forces consist of 2,209,130 personnel, with 1,320,000 being active soldiers. This marks an increase from the previous decree, which recorded the army's strength at 2,039,758 individuals, including 1,150,628 military personnel. The earlier decree, effective from January 1, 2023, projected an increase of 137,000 soldiers.

Source: iStories, Meduza, PAP

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