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Mercenary Group: A Look At 5 Big, Elite Private, Security Forces In The World

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The heavily Russian mercenary, Wagner Army, halted its approach towards Moscow, de-escalating tension between the Russian Army and the rebellious mercenary commander, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former ally of Vladimir Putin.

The brief revolt, though, exposed vulnerabilities among Russian government forces, with Wagner Group soldiers under the command of Yevgeny Prigozhin able to move unimpeded into the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and advance hundreds of kilometres (miles) toward Moscow. The Russian military scrambled to defend Russia’s capital.  Over the weekend, the Kremlin pledged not to prosecute Prigozhin and his fighters after he stopped the revolt on Saturday, even though President Vladimir Putin had branded them as traitors.

However, the latest political and military development in Russia sheds light on the network of private Army troops stationed across countries in the world, who take up arms for the government to fight conflict, as and when required. But these mercenaries or private military contractors, who join an armed conflict for personal profit, do not come under the purview of legal protection given to other government-woned security and armed forces.

Following the Wagner row in Russia, we look at a few of the world’s most infamous private military contractors and elite mercenaries.

1. Wagner group

Termed “little green men”, the Wagner group came into prominence in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea. Unidentified Russian-military-aligned men have become part of the privately-owned military troop that is said to owe its allegiance to the Kremlin. According to a report by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Wagner is a vehicle the Kremlin uses to recruit, train, and deploy mercenaries, either to fight wars or to provide security and training to friendly regimes. Controlled by  Prigozhin, the Wagner has been accused of carrying out human rights abuse in America and Africa, torturing, displacing, and killing civilians.

2. Olive group

Coming to form in 2001, the Olive Group personalises in protecting oil firms from suicide bombers and attackers in Iraq since 2003. Drawing on the ethos of the UK’s Special Forces, the Olive Group predominantly recruits their staff from ex-SAS (Special Air Service) team and reportedly hire them for large wages. Started by Harry Legge-Burke, who is an ex-Welsh guard,  is a member of the International Peace Operations Association, the British Association of Private Security Companies and the Private Security Company Association of Iraq.

3. Academi

Formerly known as the Blackwater, Academi was found in 1996 by ex-US Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince. A private US military group, it was renamed twice — Xe Services in 2009 and Academi in 2011. In 2014, Academi merged with Triple Canopy to form Constellis Holdings after it was acquired by a group of private investors. Blackwater is most known for its notoriety that involved the killing of 17 Iraqi citizens in the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. Besides, the group, which boasts an Army of 20,000 men and a base in North Carolina, has been also embroiled in several other controversies that involve violation of human rights.

4. G4S Security

The second-largest private employer of security behind Walmart and Foxconn, G4S is the biggest private military group in the world, that has around 6,20,000 employees.  It boasts of operations in over 120 countries and is three-time the size of the British Army. It provides routine support to airport security, nighttime patrolling, and so on and does not involve heavy combat. According to a report in Business Insider, in 2008, G4S swallowed up Armorgroup, whose 9,000-strong army of guards protected about one-third of all non-military supply convoys in Iraq.

5. Erinys

Einys is a private firm based out of the United Kingdom and has been in operation since the beginning of the Iraq War. One of the primary tasks of the firm is to guard the oil pipelines and energy assets in over 280 countries globally, mainly in post-war Iraq. In its fair share of controversy, Erinys was accused of killing of an American soldier and torturing prisoners in custody. The group also maintains a presence in Africa, where it has traditionally focused its operations.

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