Russian Private Military and Ukraine: Hybrid Surrogate Warfare and Russian State Policy by Other Means

Emmet Foley , Christian Kaunert

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This article investigates the Russian government's reliance on commercial soldiers in the hybrid war efforts against Ukraine until the invasion in February 2022. Russian private military companies (PMCs), such as RUSCORP and the Wagner group, have already been active in Syria and Africa over the last years, signalling the resurgence of Russian machinations on the world stage. They also played a key part in the annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as the struggles on Ukraine’s Eastern border areas around Luhansk and Donbas. The article shows that PMCs have become an integral part of the Kremlin’s approach to foreign policy. Unlike Western PMCs, which can arguably augment their ability to provide effective public security, Russian PMCs are used to construct insecurities to the point of fighting hybrid surrogate wars. While they fulfil the same outcome for the Russian state to be strengthened through the public-private security arrangements, their function is radically different: (1) providing deniability without the deployment of Russian troops; (2) providing military ambiguity, and (3) thus, furthering the Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives. The significance of the deployment of these PMCs is that they are an extension of the Russian security apparatus, closely linked to the FSB, GRU and SVR, and with similar command and control structures, staffed by former members of the Russian security services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5827
Pages (from-to)172-192
Number of pages21
JournalCentral European Journal of International and Security Studies
Issue number3
Early online date8 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sept 2022


  • Private Military Companies
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • surrogate warfare
  • Hybrid Warfare


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