Archive for category Syria

Industry Talk: The Slavonic Corps–A Russian PMSC In Syria

“A large field between Lattakia and Tartous, surrounded by barbed wire. That is where our battalion and the Syrian reservists were stationed. It used to be a racecourse. We were housed in the former stables. By October there were 267 people from the ‘Slavonic Corps’, split into two companies. One company was made up of Kuban Cossacks, the other had people from all over Russia; there were 10 or 12 men from Petersburg. The bosses said that the numbers of the corps in Syria was expected to reach up to 2,000 men.”
In addition to assault rifles, the battalion received machine guns and grenade launchers. They had anti-aircraft guns, 1939 models. The mortars were from 1943. Crews were formed for the four T-72 tanks and some BMP (infantry fighting vehicles). The question of how appropriate the weapons were, for the task of protecting “facilities,” came up quickly, even from the most gullible, and was addressed. “Did you come to fight or to guard? Whoever guards is on eternal kitchen patrol.” Those were the words of the commander’s reply. The manager of the project was Vadim Gusev, known to many as the deputy director of Moran Security Group.

This is a unique story that I wanted to get out there for folks to check out. My post about Assad approving the use of PMSC’s was a record post on FJ, and stories like this are very interesting to the community. I also wanted to put this out so that those who were involved with this contract in Syria can respond. The last couple of weeks I have been asking around on FB and nothing has come up. I suspect that it is mostly a language deal and that Russians have not been hanging on English based FB groups. So hopefully this post will get their attention via Google Search.

Basically, this company was contracted to guard ‘and’ do other things in Syria, for the Assad side. Apparently the contractors recruited by this company were victim to the whole bait and switch game, and as soon as they got on the ground, the company changed the contract to a more kinetic operation . So the company I believe is at fault for not being honest in their recruitment from the get go, and not preparing their people for this kind of contract. As  a result, the Slavonic Corps had a poor showing in Syria, it was poorly led and managed, and the contract signed with the client was poorly written. The result was a company running out of Syria with it’s tale between it’s legs, and creating a bunch of unpaid and pissed off contractors. Here is a quote about recruitment:

This was never understood. “When they spoke to us in Russia, they explained that we were going on a contract with the Syrian government, they convinced us that everything was legal and in order. Like, our government and the FSB were on board and involved in the project. When we arrived there, it turned out that we were sent as gladiators, under a contract with some Syrian or other, who may or may not have a relationship with the government… That meant that we were the private army of a local kingpin. But there was no turning back. As they said, a return ticket costs money, and we’ll work it off, whether we like it or not.” As they told the Slavonic Corps troops, the job came down to maintaining control over the centre of the oil industry, in the town of Deir ez-Zor. In order to be in control of it, we had to reach it. More than 500 kilometres across territory occupied by government troops, by the opposition or by completely unknown forces.

Crazy, but this sounds way too familiar from my experience in contracting. But I am not going to let the contractors that signed up for this off that easy. These guys did not do their due diligence before accepting the contract. It sounded like the recruiters attracted a lot of desperate and naive folks who really wanted to believe this was a good deal. I wonder if the Russians have a forum or Facebook group to go to, so they can ask questions to their community about companies like the Slavonic Corps or the Moran Security Group? Because if they would have had a SOCNET or a Feral Jundi or an Eeben Barlow, they could have gotten some second opinions that would have squared them away.  Here is a great quote from another Russian PMSC called the RSB Group, about the idiocy of this contract:

In the words of the professional: This is a crazy scheme
After asking Vyacheslav Kalashnikov several times to speak on the subject of Syria, and having received no answer, Fontanka turned to the head of Russia’s largest private military company, the “RSB Group,” for comment. Oleg Krinitsyn is certain: the Syrian story of the Slavonic Corps was a crazy scheme from the start.
“The widely advertised campaign to recruit mercenaries for Syria initially sounded like a stunt, a kind of PR campaign. Later on, people believed it and were drawn to their dream – to make money. But not all of them understood that this money was dirty, and possibly bloody. Before sending people to a country where there is active fighting, where there is a virtual ‘layer cake’ of the Syrian Army, the opposition fighters, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra etc, it’s essential to prepare them, as well as to understand how to get them out of there. Among those guys, photographed against a backdrop of Syrian equipment, festooned with weapons, I noticed a few of our former employees, who had been dismissed because of their poor moral character. I saw guys with criminal records amongst them. This once again confirms that the aim of the recruiters was not to attract high quality professionals, but just to plug a ‘hole’ with cannon fodder, and fast. And the boys were sent on contracts that resembled contracts for suicide missions. Right away, people signed a contract that included a will to bury their remains in their homeland, or if that proved impossible, in the nation where they died, and then be reburied in Russia. Dreadful.

Luckily for these guys, they were saved by a sand storm. Having experienced these types of storms in the middle east, I can say these things can get pretty dense. Quote:

It could be regarded as a great success that, out of the whole corps, a total of six people were wounded, two of them seriously. It should be pointed out that all of the wounded were removed from the battlefield and returned home with all the others. “We were saved by a sandstorm, we were enveloped by it on our retreat, but it hid us from the local mujahedeen. There was so much sand that you couldn’t see anything. But thanks to that, we are alive.”

These guys also paid the price when after fighting their way out of Syria, they had to deal with authorities when they came back home. The FSB was heavily involved from the sounds of it and this is also an interesting angle to this story. One of the articles I posted below talked about the FSB connection to this company and contract:

For instance, the head of the Slavonic Crops was a commander in the FSB reserve. New York University professor Mark Galeotti has studied the way the Russian security apparatus operates. In an interview for The Interpreter on the topic, he told me that private military contractors would need to clear all such operations with the FSB, which would mean that the FSB has placed Syria on the list of nations where foreign operations were approved. Galeotti went even further. When asked whether he thought there were more Russian mercenaries fighting for the Assad government inside Syria, he said that this was “likely,” and it’s not just mercenaries who are helping Assad:
“I anticipate that ‘mercenary’ is merely a cover story for Russian soldier or spook, just as the “Russian engineers” working on Syrian air defense systems are going to be military.”
There is significant reason to believe that the FSB knew about the mission. But as Thursday’s story in Foreign Policy explains, the Russian government had good reason to clip the mercenaries’ wings:
It’s not hard to surmise why the FSB would have turned on a company it may have given tacit support to send men into Syria. The mercenaries performed poorly in the field, and proof of their illicit activity had been plastered all over the Internet, so not tossing Gusev and Sidorov in the clink might have caused the kind of scandal that even an unembarrassable Kremlin would want to avoid. Moscow has been outspoken in its criticism of U.S. and Arab arms transfers to Syria’s rebels, even as its own state arms export company dispatches more and more sophisticated hardware to Assad, according to the State Department’s Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria. The Kremlin is also trying to ensure that the imperiled Geneva II peace conference takes place in December, just in time for the regime to be in a much-strengthened negotiating position after a series of tactical gains on the battlefield.

So with that said, I think the Russians were anticipating that the West was going to make this into an ‘embarrassing deal’ by plastering it all over the news. So for them, as soon as the whole thing went bad, they took the side of shock and disgust. Check out how they tried to whitewash this incident when these guys came back.

Despite the fact that, according to the contract, the assignment was supposed to last five months, in the last days of October the personnel were loaded onto two chartered planes and sent to Moscow. They were not expecting such a reception to be awaiting their arrival at Vnuknovo. As they disembarked the aircraft one by one, each fell into the hands of FSB officers. There was a quick inspection, the removal of SIM cards and any other media, and a brief questioning as witnesses. Then followed the removal of their passports, non-disclosure forms, and tickets home. Vadim Gusev, who had flown in business class and left the plane first, remained in the hands of the investigators. As they explained at the Moran Security Group, he and another employee of the company, Evgeny Sidorov, who was responsible for human resources, were arrested in a criminal case brought by the FSB’s metropolitan command under the never-before applied Article 359 of the Criminal Code – mercenary activities.

Did I mention that the contractors involved will not be getting paid the 4,000 dollars they were promised!…. Yikes, what a soup sandwich.

Well, that is about all I have on this one. Just some commentary on what has already been reported. If anyone has any interesting side notes on this story, I would be curious to hear about it. I also posted some links to the companies involved in this story and some good posts about the Slavonic Corps below. -Matt

Foreign Policy story on the Slavonic Corps.

Moran Security Group is a member of the ICoC (number 385) and is a member of SAMI

The Slavonic Corps website here.

War is Boring post about it here.

Pieter Van Ostaeyan’s blog about it here. (he was able to dig up some interesting stuff)

Youtube video of one of the contractors thought to be dead, that survived and posted this.

 

 

The Last Battle of the “Slavonic Corps”
The story of the Russian mercenaries who went to war against Syrian rebels.
By Denis Korotkov
Originally published by Fontanka on November 14, 2013
Translated by Pierre Vaux November 16, 2013
A Syrian rebel group claims that it has ambushed and killed a group of Russian mercenaries who may have been working for a Chinese security contractor. The jihadist fighters from an Al Qaeda affiliate “Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)” claim to have killed the mercenaries in a battle near Homs. At least one of the mercenaries, however, has been videotaped alive and well, and living back in Russia.
The large and well-respected St. Petersburg newspaper, Fontanka, has published an article, translation by The Interpreter, entitled “St. Petersburg Sends Contractors to Syria.” It details the investigation that uncovered the existence of Russian mercenaries defending sensitive installations important to the Assad government in Syria. The contractors appear to have been recruited in St. Petersburg by a company based in Hong Kong.
We also know that the mercenaries appear to have been operating in As-Sukhnah, east of Palmyra, on the road between Deir Ez Zor and Homs. Jihadists have long wanted to capture the town, and nearby Palmyra, because securing this road would link their forces from the east to the west. The Assad regime, on the other hand, has had difficulty sparing the resources to defend the position, as it is far away from the major cities which are heavily embattled. According to the initial investigation by Fontanka, the mission of the mercenaries was to secure key regime assets, away from the front lines, in order for Assad forces to concentrate on removing “bandits” in other areas. However, it appears that the oil fields that the Russians were supposed to be guarding were in rebel control, and the team was really tasked with getting them back.
The following translation is an update from Fontanka. It says that one of the key players in the military contracting company is a reservist officer in the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), lieutenant colonel Vyacheslav Kalashnikov. The FSB, therefore, were aware on some level that the Moran Security Group was sending Russian mercenaries to Syria to fight for Assad. However, the mercenary group was shut down and several mercenaries were arrested upon their return to Russia. A major Russian contractor says that this was not an FSB mission, but a mission designed to look like an FSB mission. The insinuation is that a pro-rebel group hired the Russians in order to lead them into a trap, kill them, and show their bodies on television.
All of the pictures on the original Fontanka article were also posted in the one we already translated. Instead, these pictures of the Russian mercenaries were posted on a Russian social network (except the one that states it was from Fontanka). – Ed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Weapons: Can Your Defensive Plan Counter An Armored VBIED?

This is a pretty disturbing trend when it comes to patterns of attacks by jihadists in Syria. The reason why I pay attention to this stuff is that what is learned on that battlefield, could easily be applied by the jihadists elsewhere. A big hat tip to Matt over at Screaming At Strangers for all the help in this one.

So with that said, let me introduce to you the armored vehicle born improvised explosive device or Armored VBIED. It is simple in design and concept, but extremely effective against defenses that are not prepared for such a weapon. Does your entry control point or defense plan have a counter for this? How about obstacles or munitions that can stop a BMP packed with explosives?

Check it out below, and in both videos, you can see exactly the stunning effects of this weapon. They can literally drive under a hail of bullets and place the vehicle exactly where they want it for detonation. If guys have other videos, please feel free to post those links in the comments section.

Will companies be outfitting contractors or military folks at entry control points around the world, with M-3 Carl Gustavs or similar anti-tank munitions, just to counter such a threat? Yikes…. -Matt

Edit: 12/30/13 I wanted to add this first video to this compilation. It is not an armored VBIED, but a ‘remote controlled’ VBIED.

Edit: 01/16/14 Another siting of a BMP VBIED in Syria. This time in Daara. Video here. h/t Matt from Facebook.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Syria: Assad Passes Decree Legalizing Private Security Firms

This is an interesting move. Of course during an armed revolt, Syria no longer has the luxury of using the police and military for all security functions. If anything, the police are being taken away to do more war-like functions and have less manpower to deal with petty crime and the day to day functions of a domestic police force.

Enter private security. Now at first, this seems to be a pretty basic move. But there might be more to this, or it might evolve into a different animal. Specifically, will the private security market morph into more of a mercenary market of force to support the Assad regime? Russian or Iranian private military groups (or government proxies) moving in to provide manpower to the cause? As the war in Syria drags on, all and any means of force will be considered by both sides of the conflict.

A great example of what I am talking about are the rebels, and how their ranks are filled with foreign opposition fighters. Palestinians account for the largest amount of foreign fighter deaths at a staggering 471 killed in action. The total amount of foreign opposition fighter deaths is 2,759!  -Matt

 

RSB guard protecting Russian Embassy in Iraq.

 

Syria’s Assad ‘legalises’ private security firms
August 6, 2013
Syria’s president has passed a decree legalising private security firms, faced with a 29-month armed revolt against his rule that has pinned down the police, state news agency SANA reported Tuesday.
President Bashar al-Assad’s decree regulates “licencing for private companies that provide protection and guard duties … to ensure the safety of individuals, establishments, property and the transport of cash, jewels and precious metals,” said SANA.
One-year renewable licences are to be issued by the interior ministry, it said, but only to Syrian nationals with capital of more than $250,000.
“The interior minister will define the categories of arms to be used by each company, ranging from revolvers to rifles and others,” said the agency.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Weapons Stuff: Syrian Rebels Create And Deploy A Remote Controlled Sniper Rifle

It always amazes me how resourceful and ingenious folks can be during desperate times, and especially in a war. Obviously this kid created a weapon system that fit his mission and worked well with his skill level, which was probably playing video games.

Now the question I have is if this will catch on with other rebel groups? Will this kid start a ‘remotely operated sniper system’ movement in this war, and what direction will it go for advances? How about automatic targeting or tracking? How about the incorporation of a laser rangefinder into this system.  Something like Tracking Point’s weapon system? We will see….

Although at the end of the day, I still believe humans operating the sniper rifle directly will account for more kill shots in Syria. It is the most practical, cheapest and most portable way of deploying that system. -Matt

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Syria: Incredible Footage From A Tank In Damascus

This is incredible combat footage from a tank in Syria. The tank being destroyed by a missile (starting at 2:58), right next to the tank with the camera is absolutely brutal. The devastation is beyond belief and it right out of a scene during WW 2. -Matt

 

 photo ScreenShot2013-03-10at20648PM_zps3b530195.png

This is a screen shot of a tank crew filming another tank, just as they were destroyed by an anti-tank missile.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Syria: Defense Contractors Are Training Rebels On How To Secure Chemical Weapons

Now that is a contract! lol I imagine they are paying these guys quite a bit of money to not only train the rebels on how to secure these chemical weapons if captured, but to also have contractors on the ground and monitor these weapons on the battlefield itself. Very dangerous and that has DBA written all over it.

As to whom is providing this training and monitoring is up in the air. I had written a post about Syria’s chemical weapons and MANPADS and the concerns with that, and in it I mentioned Tetra Tech as a possible solution for at least helping to clean up and secure ‘captured’ or ‘destroyed and captured’ chemical munitions. But for this particular story, I have no clue who the contractor is or if they are looking for folks. (if any readers have an idea, let me know and I will make the edit)

The other really ugly thought on this, is the absolute disaster this would create in the cities of Syria. Meaning if entire cities are coated with the oily VX Nerve agent all over everything, then after the war, someone is going to have to go in there and clean it all up. Or how would you like to by Syria’s neighbor? yikes…. Yet again, this would be a task for a competent chemical munitions cleanup company and that kind of contract would be insanely dangerous. The question is, will Assad cross the red line and use chemical weapons in his war?

Finally, the other bitter reality in all of this is the threat of losing control of these weapons. Hence why there are monitors on the ground keeping eyes on these things. But in warfare, it never fails to amaze me about the ingenuity of each side of a conflict and how they are able to use deception to continue the fight and gain advantage. Do we have eyes on all of these weapons, and can we control all the events in regards to these weapons? Well, rebels have certainly gotten their hands on captured MANPADS, and that might give us a clue as to the chemical weapons reality. We will see how this plays out…. -Matt

 

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons
By Elise Labott
December 9, 2012
The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.
The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.
The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American.

One of the aims, the sources said, is to try to get real time surveillance of the sites because the international community would not have time to prevent the use of the weapons otherwise. The program could explain how U.S. intelligence was able to learn what U.S. officials said was evidence the Assad government is mixing precursors for chemical weapons and loading those compounds into bombs. The intelligence, one U.S. official told CNN last week, came not just from satellite surveillance, but also from information provided by people. The official would not say whether the human intelligence came from telephone intercepts, defectors or people inside Syria.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

  
7ads6x98y