The friendship between Crimean «governor» Sergey Aksyonov and Yevgeniy Prigozhin started several months ago. In October 2022, soldiers of the 126th brigade of coastal defense of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation published online complaining video. They pretended they had only one armored personnel carrier for 80 soldiers and fought the Ukrainian army in Kherson oblast without leaves and rotation since the first day of Russian full scale invasion.
Next day members of «Wagner» private military company (PMC) controlled by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, Putin’s favorite mercenary, transferred four off-road vehicles to the Crimean brigade. Sergey Aksyonov announced his oversight over the brigade at the beginning of so-called «special military operation».
Yevgeniy Prigozhin declared open conflict with Russian Minister of Defense Shoigu and Head of General Headquarters of the Russian Armed Forces Gerasimov during following four months. Prigozhin claimed his enemies did not supply sufficient quantity of shells to «Wagner» mercenaries. Sergey Aksyonov supported Prigizhin in this conflict.
Crimean media controlled by Aksyonov initiated large scale recruitment campaign for «Wagner» PMC. Telegram channel «Krym24» sometimes published four advertisement videos per day. Recently Crimean propagandists travelled to Donetsk oblast and made special broadcast about «Wagner» soldiers assaulting Bakhmut. Thus, we see systemic glorification of mercenaries not affiliated with regular Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
What is Aksyonov doing now? Following Prigozhin’s example, he creates his own private military companies. In September 2022, the Center for Journalist Investigations reported that «Cossack assault battalion «Tavrida» started recruiting volunteers in Crimea.
We suggested that this battalion has been private military company of Aksyonov. The battalion was commanded by Anton Syrotkin, the advisor of Crimean «governor», member of Russian political party «United Russia», Ukrainian traitor and commander of «Black See Cossack troops».
Now Crimean propagandists openly call soldiers of the battalion as «people of Aksyonov» (as Chechen troops are called «people of Kadyrov»). Olga Kurlaeva, propaganda journalist of TV channel «Russia 24», has been the first to use this term. She often conducts propagandist interviews with Aksyonov.
«If we are talking about Crimean troops… I call them «Aksyonov’s people» as the governor is personally responsible for their salaries, equipment, food, uniforms etc.», as Kurlaeva said on TV channel «Krym24» on September 22, 2022.
«Сommanders» of «Tavrida» battalion are known. Vyacheslav Takmakov is the head of HQ of «Cossack assault battalion «Tavrida». His deputies are Andrii Dolzhenko, Dmytro Voronin and Vadym Ilovchenko.
Besides «Tavrida», Aksyonov created another battalion called «Livadiya». Information about it is scarce. There is only one broadcast of Kurlaeva from the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia oblast.
As Kurlaeva reported , Sergey Aksyonov succeeded in creating several Crimean battalions. They are equipped thanks to extra-budgetary resources found by Aksyonov. Their origin and amount are unknown. However, Crimean inhabitants regularly report about informal «contributions» local businesses have to pay, in order to support personal military units of Aksyonov.
Russian bloggers with large audiences noticed that Aksyonov is gradually turning into Prigozhin 2.0. Yurii Podolyaka wrote that officers of «Wagner» PMC were invited to train «Aksyonov’s people».
Russian telegram channel VCK-OGPU, known for his informal links with Russian military and law enforcement bodies, reports that there are rumors about relocation of «Wagner» PMC to Crimea and its great union with «Aksyonov’s people».
«This option is beneficial for «Wagner» as «orchestra» will receive its own territory in Russia, not dependent upon Russian military and intelligence bodies. Union Aksyonov-Prigozhin may become unexpected and very strong. From military point of view, it is better to protect Crimea than to assault fortresses in Donbas without shells and ammunition», as Telegram channel says.
Representative of PMC informed that «Wagner» members received 20 hectares for «Wagner Center» as the training base. As Crimean inhabitants were afraid to have former prisoners with arms as their neighbors, the representative told that the training center would be created for members of the company only.
Meanwhile, the Office of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea distributed another data. It said that Aksyonov ordered to find 500 hectares in Crimean mountains for the training center of Wagner PMC. It is very large territory (like 700 football fields)!
We will keep monitoring the situation. It should be noted that mercenaries are forbidden by the Russian legislation. Creation of PMCs is also not stipulated by Russian laws. The international law states that mercenaries are not combatants and they do not have rights of legitimate warriors. Their actions are treated as war crimes. Ukrainian citizens in Crimea should know about it.