Wagner forces suspended from operation in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria (North Press) – A military source told North Press on Monday that the Russian Wagner forces currently operating in Syria have not been replaced or pulled back. They are based in their designated areas and suspended, awaiting a rearrangement.

The military source, who works in a special security committee affiliated with Syrian government forces, added that Wagner forces present in Syria work under orders from Russian commanders stationed in Khmeimim airbase in Latakia, western Syria.

The Wagner group is a Russian state-funded paramilitary organization composed of mercenaries emerged as an important tool in Russia’s arsenal over the past decade. The mercenaries have fought in numerous international conflicts, including Syria. The Wagner group still maintains a presence in government-held parts of the country, including the vicinity of Homs and Palmyra.

After the commander of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced an insurrection, his forces in Syria withdrew from the Menagh military airbase in the northern countryside of Aleppo but returned after the insurgency attempt failed and have remained inactive to date, according to the source.  

He added that the deployment and operation of these forces are limited to protection, as Russian forces hire them to safeguard oil facilities in the Syrian Desert. Hence, whether these forces remain in Syria or depart is unlikely to have any significant impact.

Wagner forces are deployed in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and African counties. Following the failed insurgency attempt, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Vershinin, rushed to Syria to implement precautionary measures aimed at limiting any potential risks posed by the Wagner forces within Syrian territory.

The military source said that the Wagner forces are not expected to withdraw from Syria in the near future. The Russian command is reportedly working to ensure that these forces continue their operations on the ground without any major changes, which is also in line with the objectives of the Syrian military command.

Wagner forces continue to protect oil and gas fields they regained from the Islamic State (ISIS) between 2016 and 2018 in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, in addition to securing phosphate mines in the Syrian Desert. In 2018, the Syrian Petroleum Company signed a contract with the Russian company Evro Polis, which grants the latter a 25 percent share of the profits made from oil fields that were recaptured from ISIS.

Reporting by Muhammad al-Qadi