Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on February 4 signed the order allowing Gazprom Neft to establish a private military company.
The existence of private military groups has gained attention both in and outside Russia following the Wagner Group’s brutal violence in Africa and Ukraine. The Wagner Group’s paramilitary unit of mercenaries is financed and owned by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a criminal who served nine years in jail for robbery before establishing close ties with Vladimir Putin.
There are several other ragtag groups that operate as small private armies, but with close ties with the Defence Ministry and Russian military intelligence service (GRU).
One such is the Patriot, affiliated with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.
Gazprom Neft will be the first in the Arctic formally allowed to have its own private military company (PMC).
In the order, Prime Minister Mishustin points to the law on Fuel and Energy Complex facilities and grants “the right to establish a private security organization” – the same designation as used for the Wagner Group.
Gazprom Neft is the oil-producing subsidiary of Gazprom. The company holds many licenses in Siberia, including fields in the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi autonomous areas. In the European Arctic, Gazprom Neft is the owner of Prirazlomnoye, Russia’s only offshore oil production in the eastern Barents Sea.
In Ob Bay, the company operates the “Arctic Gate” terminal with oil from the Novy Port field.
In the Kola Bay, north of Murmansk, Gazprom Neft conducts ship-to-ship reloading with the supertanker “Umba” which receives oil from the company’s Arctic fields.
Gazprom Neft itself has not commented on which tasks its new private military company will get.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canada extends continental shelf claim, increasing overlaps with Russia in Arctic, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Hundreds of foreign soldiers join military exercise in Arctic Finland, The Independent Barents Observer
Greenland: Local company’s $3.95-billion U.S. arctic base contract “good news” says Greenland, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Norway buys 54 Leopards for protection of the North, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Lonely Lavrov invites Arctic colleagues to Siberia, but no one will come, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Norway, Finland, Sweden prioritize North in updated statement, Eye on the Arctic
United States: U.S. Coast Guard talks Arctic at recent summit, Eye on the Arctic