Who is Marat Gabidullin, guest tonight, Thursday 12 May, of Piazzapulita on La7
By kind permission of the publisher Libreria Pienogiorno we publish an excerpt from the preface by Kesnia Bolchakova and Alexandra Jousset to the book “I, commander of Wagner”, by Marat Gabidullin
Marat Gabidullin is not a repentant. He is not an informer, torn by his own conscience, who one day decided to turn against the organization he was a part of to denounce it. No. Marat is a soldier. A simple soldier in the midst of other consumer goods. A homo sovieticus which carries in its bowels all the forms of schizophrenia that reside in contemporary Russian man. Proud to have been part of the air force of his country’s regular army. Proud to have fought Isis in Syria as a mercenary of the Wagner group. On the other hand, Marat rejoices when he tells of having participated in the operation that made it possible to recapture Palmyra, taking it away from the Islamists. Palmira, fantasy of all those who dream of distant millenary civilizations. Still, Marat is uncomfortable admitting that he served an illegal shadow army, now in the spotlight, namely the Wagner group, accused of committing the worst abuses, rape, torture and murder against civilian populations in the countries where he took the field.
Admissions of guilt should not be expected in reading this book. This tale arises from the contradictions that haunt its author. It is a deeply Russian story, the story of a rupture and a redemption. The adventure of a soldier of fortune in the service of an army that does not officially exist.
It is to exist that Marat has decided to write. Crystallizing the facts. Inscribing the story of him and that of his brothers in arms in marble. A story so far suppressed by the authorities of his country. Because according to the Kremlin, the Wagner group does not exist. This armed force that takes sides in the four corners of the world, following the map of the interests of the Russian regime, would be, in the official version, a fantasy of the detractors of this same regime. Westerners in the lead. Questioned on numerous occasions on the matter, Vladimir Putin has always refused to admit the use of mercenaries in conflict zones and has systematically denied any link between the Kremlin and the private military company.
First, why mercenarism is an officially illegal activity in this country, punishable under article 348 of the criminal code with up to eight years’ imprisonmentthe. Secondly, because the Russian president has his advantage in this complicit silence. Sending mercenaries allows the state to save on pensions and salaries paid to soldiers in the regular army. It also allows you to hide your dead. Marat explains: “Our generals were starting to worry about possible losses. Our compatriots, for their part, did not want to conceive of war as a phenomenon that can cause deaths. A compromise had to be found.
This is how the Kremlin denies abuses, bankruptcies and loss of life
A possible compromise is to involve a parallel structure, whose participation in the fight could be denied if necessary, continuing to show our fellow citizens a beautiful reassuring image, so that they continue to be proud and happy, to applaud the military parades on Red Square, amazed by the power of our armed forces “. And thirdly, because Wagner offers a “wild card” to Vladimir Putin. The power to practice the so-called “Plausible denial” which consists in refusing any responsibility for the abuse committed by mercenaries or for failed field operations. One way to say: we have nothing to do with all this and if there are problems with Wagner, contact those responsible for him! And this is where the effectiveness of the ploy lies. Wagner has no legal existence. It is a shadow company, with respect to which no one publicly assumes responsibility for neither management nor operations.
Yet, at the head of this organization there are two men. The first is its founder. The one who gave the facility its surprising name for him: Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Utkin, nom de guerre: Wagner. This former member of the CRANEthe Russian military intelligence service, left army ranks in 2013. Starting in 2014, it gathers other special forces veterans around it and creates a rapid intervention group to conduct targeted operations in the breakaway region of Donbass, in Ukraine, at war with the pro-European authorities in Kiev. This group of mercenaries will then take the name of its leader who he decided to be called Wagner in homage to the German composer and the symbolic meaning associated with his name. Because Dmitry Utkin is a great admirer of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler.