At approximately 0700 EST reports began to emerge that the Wagner Group had officially registered under the Russian Unified State Register of Legal Entities as a non-joint public stock company, with Alexei Tensin serving as the CEO. This is the first time since the foundation of Wagner by Yevgeny Prigozhin in 2014, that the organization has appeared on any Russian government databases as a legitimate entity.
The owners of the shares of the new company were not disclosed. Its CEO Alexei Tensin previously headed the main production site of the Kalashnikov concern in Izhevsk and it does not seem that Prigozhin or any of the militant commanders are listed in the business model.
The company has been registered for “consulting on business and management issues”. In addition, the company indicated a wide range of activities in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities – from book publishing, media and scientific developments to the rental and leasing of water and air transport.
The company is registered at the address of the office complex that was opened in St. Petersburg in November. Now, as an official “business”, Wagner has the right to conclude deals, hire employees, receive government orders and grants, without disclosing its beneficiaries. Russian federal law bans the operation and existence of Private Military Companies.
However, since Wagner had contributed tens of thousands of fighters to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this may be a strategic shift in Russian policy to allow Wagner’s monopoly on the shadowy practice.
Two hours after the announcement President Putin published a decree allowing Russian joint stock companies the freedom to make business decisions against the vote of their shareholders. Russian state owned media reported:
”Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed large Russian joint-stock companies in the field of economics, engineering, trade with foreign participation to make decisions without taking into account the votes of shareholders from unfriendly countries. The corresponding decree was published on the official Internet portal of legal information on Tuesday, January 17.”
While this decree is meant to alleviate the effect of sanctions on Russian companies that have foreign shareholders, this could protect the newly minted Wagner Center from any potential harm of collecting investments from foreigners.
Wagner has been operating as a de facto part of the Russian military because it operates in support of Russian interests, receives military equipment from the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and uses installations of MoD for training, Wagner Group is frequently considered a de-facto unit of the MoD or Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU. However, until now, the business model has been shrouded in secrecy, ultimately pointing to direct support from the MoD.
However, it is worth noting that the Moran Security Group has been linked to several of Wagners founders in which they were involved in setting up the Hong Kong-based Slavonic Corps. The Slavonic Corps headhunted contractors to “protect oil fields and pipelines” in Syria during its civil war and had direct ties to the group of mercenaries that was wiped out by U.S. artillery strikes.