Marat Gabidulin, 55, refuses to be called a mercenary, and requests to be described as a former employee of the Wagner private military company, stressing that he does not regret going to fight in Syria without knowledge and outside the law, because this is in the name of the interests of Russia and its Syrian ally.
With these scattered phrases, the French newspaper Le Figaro tries to piece together what differentiated it in an interview it exclusive conducted over several months, with a Wagner soldier who broke the law of silence, without asking for the protection of his identity, to speak out loud about “those fighters whose truth is hidden”. He recounts his battles in Syria and expresses his displeasure, saying that his motive was to make money, but not alone, to explain that what he could not get in the army he later found in the “company”.
In September 2015, Gabledolin went for the first time to Syria, and resided in Latakia near the Hmeimim air base where the Russians are camped, after Moscow pledged militarily to support the Bashar al-Assad regime, and “we were told that it was about repelling an aggression by global imperialism against Good President Bashar. I don’t know who made the decision to send us.”
Gabledolin says that he did not participate in the fighting during this first mission, from which he returned at the end of October 2015, but he recounted that they lost a number of “men” when a shell fell on the tent he was standing in front of, killing everyone who was in it, as he recounts the cowardice of the Syrian soldiers. “Those who fled the battle to return to loot the corpses after his comrades managed to defeat the enemy.”
From this first mission, Gabledolin’s life took a new turn, after he spent 10 years in the army and left him in 1993 with the rank of first lieutenant, at a time when the Russian forces were in a state of chaos like the rest of the country, and salaries were two or three months late, which made him decide to resign and think In “starting a business” though “it was not easy for an officer to find a job in civilian life”.
In the nineties – says Gabledolin – when violence and settling accounts in the business world was rampant, “I shot in defense of a gangster who took control of the city, I was sentenced to 3 years in prison and released in 1997, and the army gate was permanently closed in my face,” indicating that he worked as a guard. Personally and in the field of security, except that “that I did not like.”
He lived difficult years and remained unemployed and unable to provide for his family, his wife and daughter, until one of his acquaintances told him about “Wagner” and successfully passed her interview despite her strictness, and they explained to him – as he says – that the mission was to defend and promote the interests of the country with a readiness to participate in a war, He liked it because he understood that the state was behind it. https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.468.0_en.html#goog_1146592665
real little army
After 3 months of training, Gabledolin says he regained his lost skills and learned new ones, and found himself in a real small army that had the same weapons as the official army, including mortars, artillery and tanks, and had all kinds of people, some of them ruthless mercenaries who came to make a living, and some of them passed In hot regions such as the Ukrainian Donbass region.
Gabledolin returned to Syria in 2016, at a time when the control of the anti-Assad forces reached its zenith, and they tightened their grip on the desert, oil fields and areas near Damascus, so he was thrown with the rest of his group, which had advanced weapons and an abundance of ammunition – he says – north of Latakia to fight the front. The jihadist Nusra and the Islamic State.
He was leading an intelligence company, a position he dreamed of when he was in the Russian army. Prior to the battle of Palmyra, which was captured by ISIS and the Syrian forces recaptured it before losing it again, the Syrian forces and Wagner were working separately and “we were in the front and the Syrian army was behind us, But after the fall of the city, he came forward to appear in the picture.
In Gabledolin’s novel, he repeatedly talks about the shortcomings of the Syrian army, which was not able to fight, its level of readiness is very low and it has no motivation at all. In fact, despite the support of the Russian Special Forces, Air Force and Artillery, it was unable to achieve its military objectives, as Gabledolin asserts, “We were doing work for it.”
On the other hand, ISIS appears – as Gabledolin says – “strong, dangerous, organized, mobile and highly motivated thanks to its ideological readiness. It is a disciplined, well-armed, cruel, sadistic enemy ready to sacrifice itself.”
He explained that he was earning 240,000 rubles a month, which is less than 3,000 euros, and asked, “Who will accept the risk of death” for this amount? Noting that “an American receives $800 a day just to work as a bodyguard,” but he nevertheless admits that his salary is good by Russian standards, and it enabled him to buy an apartment near Moscow.
Although Palmyra was within sight, Gabledolin was seriously injured and spent 3 months in a hospital in a location he refused to specify in Russia, and he refused to talk about other matters he considered sensitive as Dmitri Utkin, nicknamed “Wagner”, the founder of the group.