PMC Wagner began as a joint project of the GRU and the Russian Ministry of Defense, but then Yevgeny Prigozhin came and quarreled with the head of the Ministry of Defense, Alexander Zlodeev, a former member of the Wagner PMC, who was listed there from the moment of foundation, since 2014, told the Gulag.net project.
Zlodeev was invited to the PMC by his “comrade-in-arms” from Serbia. Eugene came to conclude a contract at the Molkino training ground (near the Molkino farm in the Krasnodar Territory). This is the training ground of the Southern Military District, where units of the GRU special forces are located. In PMCs at that time, everyone settled only by acquaintance, says Zlodeev, there was no advertising, the former military called up and passed information to each other about recruiting into an armed formation.
According to Zlodeev, when he first signed a contract with PMCs, there were two structures: military and administrative. This structure did not then bear the name of PMC Wagner, the mercenaries signed an agreement with a company registered in the Moscow region. “They paid in cash while you were at the training ground, they paid 60 thousand rubles,” Zlodeev explained. “If you are on a business trip, then from 130 to 150 thousand.” The salary came from the GRU. At first, the formation had about 200 people, but later it grew to 1,500 fighters, the ex-Wagnerian says.
The PMC received equipment, weapons and ammunition from the military units of the Russian Defense Ministry, including on the basis of the tenth separate special forces brigade of the military unit 51532, says Zlodeev. The headquarters, camp and combat training center of PMCs were located on the adjacent territories of this military unit.
“At first, the supply was very good. There was such a military brotherhood. The commander did jogging with us, ”says Zlodeev. The commander was Dmitry Utkin.
Utkin since 2013 served as the commander of the 700th separate special forces detachment of the 2nd separate special forces brigade of the GRU of the Ministry of Defense. After being transferred to the reserve, he worked at the Moran Security Group, participated in the Syrian expedition of the Slavic Corps in 2013. Since 2014, he has been the commander of his own unit, which, according to his call sign, received the code name “Wagner PMC”. In December 2016, Utkin was seen at a reception in the Kremlin in honor of Defender of the Fatherland Day. Later, the press secretary of the President of Russia, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that Utkin was among those invited from the Novgorod region at the banquet, as he was "a holder of the Order of Courage." At the same time, Peskov did not say anything about Utkin's connection with the Wagner PMC.
Also, one of the founders of the Wagner PMC Andrey Troshev came to the Molkino training ground, he led the security service, says Zlodeev. The security service had links with the FSB, and tensions were felt between it and the GRU, he notes. According to Zlodeev, they even tried to recruit him to be an FSB agent in the Wagner PMC. At the same time, they did not officially come to the PMC base with checks from the FSB.
According to Zlodeev, Prigozhin appeared later, with his arrival at the headquarters, “office influence” became noticeable: “We need to form a new unit, but they send [description] as it should be - obviously office workers. You notice that it clearly does not coincide in all military sciences and techniques. Also at that moment, salaries were reduced, “combat” payments began to be counted, says Zlodeev.
Zlodeev never saw Prigozhin personally, but he spoke to him on the phone in Syria during the first capture of Palmyra. Villains at that moment was at headquarters in Palmyra. Prigozhin spoke very politely, he was primarily interested in losses. “He then had the call sign “Sergey Sergeyevich” or “Nikolai Nikolaevich”, but we knew that it was him, the top one,” he says. During that assault, more than 200 Wagner PMC mercenaries were killed, Zlodeev recalls. Then not only Russians, but also foreigners fought in PMCs, he notes. The presence of Wagner PMCs in Syria was not advertised, but all ground operations there were then carried out only by Wagner PMCs, says Zlodeev. Sometimes the MTR was involved, but they were more engaged in aiming, aviation. Also, the Wagner PMC mercenaries had passes from the Russian Ministry of Defense to the base in Khmeimim.
However, according to Zlodeev, after Prigozhin “quarreled with the Minister of Defense”, “everything was cut off, it became very bad,” including the deterioration of supplies. The quarrel between Prigozhin and the defense minister took place after the capture of Palmyra, Zlodeev says, when Vladimir Putin praised Prigozhin, and this did not please the head of the defense ministry.
This conflict resulted in the loss of PMC Wagner near Khasham, in the area of gas fields, in 2018, Zlodeev said. “Then the PMC fighters crossed the river and began to seize the oil fields. The NATO military called the Ministry of Defense and asked: “Are these yours there?”, And the Ministry of Defense answered “No, not ours.” And they opened fire on the Wagner PMC fighters, ”says Zlodeev.
Zlodeev himself refused to participate in the war against Ukraine and received political asylum in France.