Companies related to Wagner’s private military group were “put into the spotlight” after the rebellion of tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The price Wagner had to pay
Inside the besieged Wagner private military headquarters in St. Petersburg, agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) searched offices for evidence against Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss who led the uprising in Russia late last month.
New Kremlin-backed military contractors are launching recruitment drives on Russian social media networks with recruitment ads to entice part of Wagner’s 30,000 members.
Across St. Petersburg, Russian law enforcement agencies confiscated the computers and servers of Patriot Media, a media company owned by Prigozhin. Patriot Media’s new owner appears to be the National Media Group media empire run by former rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.
On June 30, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that the media regulator Roskomnadzor had blocked news channels related to Prigozhin. In addition, according to Russian media, a “news factory” used by Prigozhin to influence public opinion in other countries, including the United States, was also disbanded.
The social media accounts that once publicized the views of the Kremlin created by Prigozhin are largely inactive. Wagner’s social media network YaRUS is also suspending services and seeking new investors, “due to the political situation”.
Wagner helped Russia expand its international influence and increase its revenue streams. This business network is managed by Prigozhin’s main holding company, Concord. Now, however, Russia is said to want to end this control of Concord.
On June 24, the Kremlin blocked all social media channels of Wagner and Concord. Russian security forces raided branches of Concord. There, they seized guns, fake passports, money, and gold worth $48 million.
A complicated empire
Prigozhin’s business empire is primarily known for its supply of mercenaries but also includes its main business network, construction, logistics, and mining.
More than six companies controlled by Wagner are engaged in mining contracts. The units he used to mobilize the mercenaries were in the chain of other businesses such as Sewa Security Company.
Although Prigozhin admitted for the first time in October that he founded the private military company Wagner after denying it for a decade, much of the network of companies he controls has remained a secret until now.
In the Central African Republic, Mali and Syria, leaders of mining and security companies linked to Wagner are likely to continue to hide, waiting for a signal from Moscow after Prigozhin’s failed rebellion.
Before the rebellion, tycoon Prigozhin had built one of the most complex and mysterious business empires in the world. Many of the deals that Wagner-related companies sign with governments in Africa are unofficial, but negotiated by Prigozhin himself. These contracts often include mining for mineral resources in the countries in which Wagner operates.
A member of the Wagner group said Prigozhin had transferred part of the shares to employees a few weeks before the riot. The move is said to be to avoid the risk of some assets being confiscated by the Russian government.
In May, Mr. Prigozhin appointed Abbas Juma, an employee under him, to the role of head of the supervisory board of the Patriot media group. Mr. Juma confirmed this information, but it is not clear why Mr. Prigozhin did so. “He’s a very smart and cautious man, he does everything for a reason.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Wagner and Prigozhin received about $2 billion from the government last year and received “fully funded” from the state. “Hopefully no one is stealing or stealing from this operation, but of course we will investigate all of them,” he said.
Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the Russian media group Rossiya Segodnya, even said that Wagner received nearly $10 billion from contracts signed with the Russian government. He believes that money has blinded Prigozhin. “Prigozhin has lost control because of the large amount of money,” he said.
According to Kiselyov, Prigozhin’s company has a strong media influence, giving some people the impression that Wagner is Russia’s most elite front-line force.
Alexander Beglov, governor of St. Petersburg and a longtime opponent of Prigozhin, accusing Wagner of trying to control the city’s economy. “Now it’s clear to everyone who really supports the president, who wants to push the country into civil war,” he said.
In Russia, the employees operating at Wagner’s headquarters have yet to return to work and what concerns them now is which agency will take over. Even so, Wagner last weekend confirmed on Telegram that they are moving and “will continue to work for the good of the country, but in a different way and website”.