November 30, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10992

Amid Conflict With Russian Defense Ministry, Mercenaries Formerly Part Of Wagner Group Join Russian National Guard

November 30, 2023
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10992

On August 25, 2023, almost a month after the rebellion of the Wagner Group, Russian Presidential Administration Spoksman Dmitry Peskov, commenting during a briefing with a journalist on the future of the Wagner Group, made a convoluted statement: "Let us not forget that there is no such structure, there is no de jure PMC 'Wagner.' There is, indeed, the 'Wagner' group."[1] Such attention to the formality of registration is notable, as it was reiterated by Peskov on September 6,[2] and by Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 5, who said that "Wagner" is a term used by journalists for a structure that does not exist.[3]

This statement contradicts his June 27 statement, in which he said: "The state provided full maintenance to the entire Wagner group – [from the budget of] the Defense Ministry, from the state budget. We have fully financed this group."[4] Such a duality and attention to fortmality may be attributed to the fact that the U.S. had sanctioned the group[5] and U.K. proscribed the group as a terrorist organization.[6]

Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee Andrei Kartapolov later said that Wagner "has been finally disbanded" and that the majority of its fighters had transferred to other structures "in African countries, but already under, let us say, a different brand and under the aegis of the Defense Ministry," joined the armed forces, or the country's National Guard, called the Rosgvardia.[7]

Wagner Telegram Channels Remain Active

Wagner Telegram channels continue to highlight the activities of fighters in African countries, Belarus, and Ukrane, refering to participants in the events as members of the Wagner Group. This statement was denied by several channels associated with Wagner.[8] The following items are example of that stance.

On November 27, 2023, the "Wagner Orchestra | Wagner" Telegram channel posted an image of the badges of Wagner fighters currently operating in Mali. The first image shows the patch of the company's Fifth Assault Squad. The caption on the badge reads: "kill 'em all f*cking dead."[9]


A November 27 post by the "PMC 'Wagner' Republic of Belarus" Telegram channel includes several videos of special forces military personnel of Belarus being trained by "instructors with combat experience," i.e., Wagner Group personnel at a training center for internal security personnel.[10]

Opposition To Former Wagner Personnel Working For Defense Ministry

Despite the authorities' unclear statements on Wagner, it seems that the issue of the "legal status" of mercenaries, especially signing contracts with the authorities, remains as important as it was in the spring and summer of 2023 when the Kremlin's conflict with late Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin erupted.

It also seems that despite the failure of the attempted coup, a significant number of Wagner personnel still do not want to join the ranks of the forces controlled by the Defense Ministry. Telegram channels associated with the Wagner Group oppose "Wagnerites" joining those forces.[11]

The Wagner-affiliated "Grey Zone" channel said about the possibility of "Wagnerites" joining the "Redut" PMC, which is controlled by the Defense Ministry: "As expected, the 'Redut' PMC has inherited all the problems of the regular army. Despite the generally good and even exellent personnel recruited there, they were given tasks by typical army stripes [pejorative for corrupt and retrograde generals]... But Redut survives not only thanks to the traitors [from the Wagner Group]. I think the fact that the original terms of the contract were not fulfilled will resonate with many reading these lines. From payments and conditions for entry into Russian territory, to failure to comply over minor issues, such as granting citizenship [after service]."[12]

In October 2023, President Putin claimed that several thousand personnel from the Wagner PMC had signed a contract with the Defense Ministry.[13] If this is true, it means a small number of such personnel had done so. At its peak in 2022, Wagner reportedly had up to 50,000 personnel.

There are many reports that former Wagner personnel are unable to be recognized as combat veterans and receive the corresponding benefits, as the Defense Ministry has to issue a specific decree for such recognition.[14] A collective letter to Putin written by relatives of Wagner personnel reads: "No matter to whom we turn [we are being told:] 'Since your sons are "Wagnerites," you are not entitled to anything, you have no right'... They do not even give us a certificate saying that our hero fighters fought like tigers in the ranks of the Wagner PMC in a terrible meat grinder near Artemovsk and in other places, that they sacrificed their lives for Russia. Why should we be ashamed of this? It is unfair and offensive that some officials treat the Wagnerites as second class."[15]

Defense Ministry Efforts To Recruit Former Wagner Personnel

The Defense Ministry, sometimes through contractors, is recruiting contract servicemen to avoid an unpopular partial or general mobilization on the eve of Russian presidential elections. One of the incentives is the relatively high monthly salary of about $3,400, plus a signing bonus that can reach that can reach about $11,300 comparing to the median average of about $454.

The screenshot shows the Russian website Avito, which lists job openings. TRUST-COM, a company affiliated with the Defense Ministry, recruits regular soldiers.[16] All job offers, despite slightly varying descriptions, are for the signing of a contract with the Defense Ministry. The average monthly salary starts from about $3,360.


The same website shows the profiles of men who claim to have experience working for the Wagner PMC looking for work by posting their CVs. Most of them are looking for work as laborers, security guards, or watchmen. These are positions with very modest salaries compared to the contracts provided by the Defense Ministry.

Indeed, it seems that after the failure of Prigozhin's coup, former Wagner personnel are hesistant to join the Defense Ministry forces, while the latter may try to persecute or punish ex-mutineers. It seems that the National Guard, which is also called the Rosgvardia and is the internal military force of Russia that reports directly to the president, not to the Defense Ministry, has become a preferrable destination for former Wagner personnel.

It also seems that a lot of efforts to recruit former Wagner personnel aim at getting them to sign contracts with Rosgvardia. The "Wagner Group" Telegram channel, which has more than 260,000 subscribers, as well as affiliated VK groups,[17] and other Telegram channels, focuses on recruiting former PMC members. Several media platforms are managed by the user @grishataksa who wears a lot of Wagner paraphernalia during his streams and seems to have worked for the Wagner Group. Many former Wagner personnel or people wishing to sign a contract with "Wagner" watch his streams, which are broadcast via multiple platforms, including VK, RuTube, Telegram, and discuss recruiting, social benefits to combat veterans, and other issues. The channel praises General Viktor Zolotov, who is Rosgvardia Director and a personal acquaintance of Putin's, noting his combat veteran status.[18] It also posts information about former Wagner personnel already fighting in Ukraine in the ranks of the Rosgvardia.

A November 20 stream of the "Grisha Taxa" user.

A video posted by the Wagner Group TG channel
[20] shows the operation of the Rosgvardia artillery unit in Ukraine. The captiuon reads: "Some Orchestrators [i.e., Wagner servicemen] are already sharing their experiences there."

The text of a recruiting post by the Wagner Group TG channel
[21] gives information on a Rosgvardia recruiting effort: "At the moment, a camp is being organized on the basis of the 136th brigade of the Rosgvardia. Mass recruitment is scheduled to begin after November 3 (after the training camp is comissioned)."

On October 29 the channel said that Wagner Group is officially becoming part of Rosgvardia, which, legally speaking, is incorrect.[22] After all, Putin and many other officials have said that, legally, Wagner does not exist. In addition, the text invites all Wagner members to sign an individual contract, saying that: the entire structure of the "Wagner Group" – the order of the work, the commanders, has remained the same; that a Wagner base in Ukraine is being built from scratch; that detachments are being prepared to fight in the Ukraine war or Belarus; that the call-up of personnel from the reserves and the recruitment of new personnel is underway; and that the provisions, treatment, and rehabilitation is the same as in the Rosgvardiya. Curiously, the text also notes that "people who transferred from the Wagner Group to the structures of the Defense Ministry and volunteer units are not accepted back!"

Regarding the legal status, it should be noted that on October 17, the Russian State Duma passed a bill that would give the Rosgvardiya the right to form volunteer units.[23] Previously, such units could only be formed by the Defense Ministry.[24] In November 2023, it was reported that special "Kamerton" unit comprising former Wagner mercenaries was created within the Chechen "Akhmat" unit.[25] Legally speaking the "Akhmat" Special Rapid Reaction Squad is a special unit of the very same Rosgvardia, not the Defense Ministry, stationed in the Chechen Republic.

Thus, it could be assumed that the conflict between Wagner and the Defense Ministry was not resolved on good terms and many fighters are hesitant to sign military contracts. It seems the authorities divert recruiting efforts to Rosgvardia, which also has the right to use heavy arms and fight in Ukraine. Therefore its units maybe considerable strengthened by former Wagner personnel.






[5], January 26, 2023;, June 27, 2023;, May 25, 2023.

[6], September 15, 2023.


















[24] Xn--80aaii1ae7aij2he.xn--p1ai/


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