Syria brought Wagner Group fighters to heel as mutiny unfolded in Russia

syria-brought-wagner-group-fighters-to-heel-as-mutiny-unfolded-in-russia
Syria brought Wagner Group fighters to heel as mutiny unfolded in Russia

Authorities in Syria and Russian military commanders took swift measures against local Wagner operatives to prevent the mutiny from spreading. These measures included blocking phone lines, summoning Wagner commanders to a Russian military base, and ordering mercenaries to sign new contracts or leave Syria. Syrian authorities were concerned that Russia was distracted by events back home and wanted to maintain control over the mercenary force. The crackdown signaled the end of Wagner’s role in Syria and strained their relationship with the Syrian defense ministry.

The Syrian government, Russia’s defense ministry, and Wagner in Russia did not respond to requests for comment. The mutiny in June, orchestrated by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, caused concern among senior Syrian military and intelligence officials. They relied on the Russian military presence in Syria and feared that the mutiny could disrupt their partnership.

The presence of the Wagner group in Syria is relatively small compared to the estimated Russian military strength. Russia deployed its military forces and airpower to Syria in 2015 to support President Bashar al-Assad. Wagner has been involved in combat missions and security for oil installations in Syria since then.

For years, Moscow denied any connection with Wagner, but President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the government funds the group. After Prigozhin announced the mutiny, Russian military officers were sent to Syria to take charge of the Wagner forces. Syrian military intelligence cut off communication lines to isolate and control the Wagner operatives.

A group of Wagner officers in Homs and other areas were summoned to Russia’s operational base at Hmeimim. The fate of these officers is unknown. Wagner fighters in Syria were asked to sign new contracts and their pay was cut. Those who refused were flown out on Russian planes, with some potentially being redeployed to Mali.

Wagner’s presence in Syria has been linked to Evro Polis, a company that profits from Syrian oilfields. The EU imposed sanctions on the firm in 2021. The fate of these commercial interests following the Russian defense ministry’s actions is uncertain.

Hmeimim base has served as a logistics hub for Wagner fighters to transit to other locations, including Libya and Africa. The disruption caused by the mutiny could impact Wagner’s operations in these areas. Despite Wagner’s relatively unnoticed role in Syria’s war, the importance of the military alliance between Syria and Russia was publicly restated by Syrian leadership.

Syrian first lady Asmaa al-Assad reaffirmed the country’s support for Russia during a visit to Moscow. The details of Wagner’s presence in Syria gradually emerged over time, including a confrontation with U.S. forces in 2018. Additional reporting by various sources was included in the article.

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