Relatives of former prisoners who were killed in Ukraine while fighting with Wagner Group explained to publication Sever.Realii (a Radio Liberty project) how the military cartel organizes payments to its fighters and their relatives.
They say Wagner Group representatives pay out millions of rubles in cash at rented offices in Russia’s major cities, like Petersburg and Novosibirsk, as well as at the Wagner base in the Krasnodar region.
A company called Sluzhba 200 (Service 200) organizes funerals for killed Wagner mercenaries and handles Wagner Group payments. The service has a WhatsApp number, which relatives can use to find out the status of Wagner fighters. Alena, a Norilsk resident, used Service 200 when she was searching for her brother. It asked her to confirm her identity by sending a photo of her passport, and then within five minutes told her her brother had been killed.
After her brother’s funeral, Wagner Group asked Alena for his burial certificate, and then directed her to the closest Wagner compensation center, in Novosibirsk. Alena spent about eight hours in line at the Novosibirsk office. “The process is not fast. You write out a receipt, they take your picture, people count out money from these cash bundles,” she explained.
Alena’s family received a six-month pension of 660,000 rubles (around $8,050) for her brother; 100,000 rubles ($1,220) in “funeral money;” and five million rubles as compensation for the death of a relative (over $60,000). Wagner employees recommended that Alena not deposit the money in a bank account. “Before we left they gave us instructions: don’t load the money on a card, and don’t put it in a checking account. You can put it in a safe deposit box. Or you can put 100,000 rubles [a little over $1,000] on cards from different banks. That’s it. Be quiet about this money,” she said.
Wagner representatives also issues medals to relatives when its fighters earn them within the paramilitary structure. Wagner employees claim that the medals should come with a certificate signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, but that the certificate will be given out only after the mercenaries are “officially recognized” as combat veterans.
Some Sever.Realii sources reported that they’d received certificates from Wagner “directors” about their relatives’ participation in the war in Ukraine. The documents were printed on letterhead from the Petersburg League for the Protection of Veterans of Local Wars and Fighters in Military Conflicts, and were signed by the director of the organization, Hero of the Russian Federation Andrey Troshev.