What is the fate of Syria’s Wagner oil companies, investments?

Russian and Syrian regime soldiers in Damascus - 2018 (Reuters)

Russian and Syrian regime soldiers in Damascus - 2018 (Reuters)


The fate of Wagner’s investments and oil contracts in Syria remains unclear since dissolving the private military company on June 26 after the mercenary group abandoned its rebellion 200 km ahead of Moscow.

Moving to Belarus was part of the deal the Kremlin struck with Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Wagner, to end the rebellion that rattled Russia’s leadership.

“Prigozhin and his mercenaries escaped prosecution and were offered refuge in Belarus by President Alexander Lukashenko, who said his country could use their experience and expertise,” The AP reported.

The agreement published by the Kremlin included five clauses, the first of which talked about the possibility of some Wagner fighters who refused to participate in the rebellion campaign joining the Russian army under contracts with the Ministry of Defense.

The agreement also included that no member of the group be subject to any legal prosecution, while the third clause included the return of Wagner to its camps.

The fourth item was similar to the first, and it talked about contracts for individuals who did not wish to return to the Wagner camps with the Ministry of Defense.

The fifth clause included the closure of the case and Prigozhin’s departure to Belarus without any legal prosecution.

Wagner’s rebellion, which began on the evening of June 23, did not last long when Prigozhin announced that his forces had taken control of the airport and military installations in the city of Rostov, bordering Ukraine, threatening to head towards the Russian capital.

The mercenary leader also sharply criticized the Russian army’s commanders, accusing them of launching a deadly missile attack on his forces in Ukraine as his reason for starting the rebellion.

For months, Prigozhin had accused the Russian Defense Minister and Chief of Staff of incompetence and depriving Wagner of ammunition and support in its battles in Ukraine.

Wagner in Syria

A vague situation dominated the scene in Syria, as, unusually, no statement was issued condemning Wagner and standing with the Russian government, by the government of the Syrian regime, despite several countries expressing their position on these events.

The Wall Street Journal reported on June 28 that the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Vershinin, flew to Damascus on June 26, hours after the Wagner rebellion, to establish direct contact with Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad, urging him to stop Wagner forces from leaving Syria without Moscow’s oversight.

A statement issued by the Syrian Presidency account on Facebook after the meeting said that “al-Assad met with Vershinin, and the two sides held political discussions on Syrian-Russian relations and coordination in the light of recent events.”

Two people familiar with the subject said Wagner mercenaries, which act largely independently in Syria, were ordered to go to the Russian-held Hmeimym air base in the coastal port city of Latakia, and they followed this instruction.

Wagner has investments in the oil and gas sectors in Syria through Wagner’s leader’s connection to Mercury and Vilada companies, which obtained oil exploration contracts in Syria through a presidential decree at the end of 2019.

The two companies obtained exploration fields in sites in the eastern region and in the central region, north of the capital, Damascus.

According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the two companies are owned by Prigozhin, and according to a report published in early 2020.

Prigozhin’s companies earned about $20 million per month in Syria during the year 2018, said Novaya Gazeta.

Wagner was known in Syria for its role in recovering the oil and gas fields from the fighters of the Islamic State group between 2016 and 2018, and later assumed the tasks of securing these fields, especially in the countryside of Deir Ezzor, in addition to securing the phosphate fields in the Badia region in central Syria.

A 47-page contract was signed in 2018 between the Russia Evro Polis company and Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp.

The company was to receive 25% of the profits of the oil fields that were recovered from ISIS.

The company was established only months before the signing of the contract, as a front for Wagner’s investment activity, according to the documentary by the WSJ.

In 2021, al-Assad ratified an agreement with the Russian Capital Company, which granted it the right to explore for oil and gas in the Mediterranean.

Links were discovered between Capital and Wagner’s Evropolis, as it became clear that the general manager of the first is listed as chief geologist in the second and other overlaps in the structure of the two companies, the Foreign Policy reported in May 2021.

According to a report by the American New Lines magazine in April 2022, Russia provided two loans totaling $1 billion to the Syrian regime on the condition that it be repaid to specific Russian companies, including the Wagner-run Evropolis company.

What is the fate of companies, loans?

Despite the fate of the Russian companies that are a front for Wagner is unknown, the fate of the group is to disappear in Syria due to Prigozhin’s rebellion against Putin, which cannot be forgiven by the latter, despite the alleged agreement by Belarus, believes economist Dr. Karam Shaar.

The director of the Syrian program at the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks told Enab Baladi that he believes that Prigozhin will be forced to transfer ownership to other names or” interfaces” after Putin considered himself a partner in these companies in Syria and that Prigozhin was a front for companies, while another front will now take his place after his rebellion.

Regarding the loans pledged to be repaid to Wagner companies in Syria, Shaar said that the regime will remain responsible for paying these loans to the new interface that will be linked to Putin because the Russian president also benefits from these loans.

This is the first reason why Wagner companies obtained contracts with “harsh” conditions on the government of the Syrian regime, in favor of these companies, according to the expert.

Russia Today, on June 27, denied the existence of any Wagner activity in Syria.

The Russian channel quoted official sources in the Syrian regime as saying, “There is activity in Syria for companies of a purely economic nature, such as RosStroyGas, and military units that base themselves at Hmeimim Airport, but there is no presence of Wagner-affiliated elements or entities.”

Russia Today added that investigations took place inside the Hmeimim base with members who were previously associated with Wagner but confirmed that the whole matter “was no more than a precautionary measure.”

Russia denies for years any association with Wagner, but Moscow is now trying to seize the group’s property and activity through a new administration.

According to Western officials quoted by the WSJ, Wagner companies generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in Africa and are a major source of financing and Russia’s influence on the continent and financing operations in Ukraine.

These officials said the group’s sources of income include Sudanese gold exports to Russia, as well as diamonds from the Central African Republic to the UAE, and timber to Pakistan.

For years, Wagner acted as a security force throughout the Middle East and Africa, with more than 30,000 fighters.

The then Russian businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, shows the then Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, his school food factory outside St. Petersburg city, Russia - September 20, 2010 (Sputnik)

The then Russian businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, shows the then Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, his school food factory outside St. Petersburg city, Russia – September 20, 2010 (Sputnik)



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