Information on a top secret Russian army which pays its recruits “10 times their regular salary” and gives no “code of conduct” on how they carry out their mission has been found on a tablet recovered from a battlefield in western Libya.
“Wagner” is one of the most secretive organizations in Russia and does not officially exist – serving as a mercenary is against the law in Russia and carries heavy penalties.
Despite this, as many as 10,000 agents have reportedly taken on at least one contract with Wagner in the past seven years, BBC reports.
A Samsung tablet left on a battlefield in Libya by a Wagner fighter has been acquired by the BBC – which they say has information suggesting that Wagner was “probably supported at the highest level”.
The Russian government has long denied any involvement in the mercenary group – which has operated around the world.
An anonymous Wagner veteran told the BBC that all members of the mercenary group are motivated by “financial gain” – and that the individuals usually come from small towns where employment opportunities are poor.
The source said they can very often earn up to 10 times the average salary when they join the group.
Another veteran described his colleagues at Wagner as “modern day Vikings.”
The process of joining is extremely secret. The veterans said people are not recruited for “Wagner”, but instead apply for short-term contracts for things like “work on an oil rig.”
After rigorous physical testing and background checks, they are taken to the unofficial Wagner training ground near Krasnodar in southern Russia, which adjoins a Russian military base.
The recruits are then sent overseas on missions, being told that if they die their bodies may not be recovered.
It is understood that many of Wagner’s recruits have criminal records, making it difficult for them to join the Russian regular army.
A veteran reportedly admitted he had little doubt that Wagner’s agents torture and kill prisoners.
A source told the BBC: “Whenever there is some kind of armed conflict somewhere, Wagner’s soldiers talk about it. “We could go to this one, this could be one for us. Because every contract and every country is money.
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“If you don’t have a contract, you sit there in reserve with no money.”
Information on the recovered tablet shows a “shopping list” of advanced weapons for the mercenary group.
BBC security adviser Chris Cobb-Smith says this suggests they “are little more than an unofficial part of the Russian military.”
Cobb-Smith said: “I very much doubt that another Private Military Company (PMC) – if Wagner can be called that – has anything close to the support that seems to be available to them here.”
“It appears that Wagner is little more than an unofficial part of the Russian military.”