Russian clinic treated mercenaries injured in secret wars

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A St Petersburg clinic run and partly owned by people with ties to President Vladimir Putin provided medical treatment to Russian mercenaries injured abroad, according to people with knowledge of military contractors being treated, a clinic employee, a reporter’s witness account and company records.

The previously unreported medical treatment for private military contractors wounded in foreign combat, including Libya and Syria, shows fighters received indirect support from the country’s elite as the Kremlin denies they fight on its behalf.

Under Russian law, all medical organisations are obliged to report combat injuries to police for investigation and it’s illegal for a Russian citizen to participate in armed conflict as a mercenary.

The clinic is owned by insurance company AO Sogaz, which counts among its senior officials and owners relatives of Putin and others linked to the president, according to the SPARK database, which aggregates data from business registries.

Clinic general director, Vladislav Baranov, has a business relationship with Putin’s elder daughter, Maria. Reuters has no evidence of the daughter’s involvement in the treatment of military contractors.

Reached by phone, Baranov told Reuters: “Forget our clinics, that’s my advice for you.” In response to written questions, he said: “I don’t want to communicate with you.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have no information on this at all.” The defence ministry, Sogaz and Putin’s daughter did not respond to requests for comment.

Russian private military contractors clandestinely fought in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine, Reuters and other media previously reported. Contractors are recruited by a private military group known as Wagner Group whose members are mostly ex-service personnel.

Wagner fighters were deployed in Libya to support eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, according to former Wagner military contractors. Haftar is battling the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.

The Russian state denies it uses mercenaries and said those fighting in Ukraine and Syria are volunteers. Putin said Russian private military contractors were present in Syria providomh security services and have nothing to do with the Russian state or its army and have the right to work in any country as long as they don’t violate Russian law by taking part in combat.

Putin, asked at his annual news conference on December 19 about Russian mercenaries in Libya, said: “Do you believe what Western media report? Do you believe everything?” Russia, he added, was in contact with Libya’s internationally recognised prime minister, Fayez al-Serraj, and Khalifa Haftar.

Wagner Group’s founder, Dmitry Utkin, could not be reached for comment.

WOUNDED COMMANDER

Smoking a cigarette in the clinic’s backyard in late October, Alexander Kuznetsov said he was in Libya and Russians there were “fighting international terrorism to protect Moscow’s interests.” He sported bandages and attached to his arm was an external metal fixation device of the type used to treat complex bone injuries. He declined to discuss his injuries.

A former Wagner fighter treated at the clinic and another private military contractor, when presented with a photograph of Kuznetsov, identified him as commander of a Wagner Group assault unit injured fighting in Libya. Kuznetsov confirmed he was a private military commander, but didn’t specify for who.

The clinic, which opened in 2010, is one of a string of private medical facilities Sogaz has across Russia, according to the company’s website.

The Sogaz clinic offered services to Wagner fighters since at least 2016, according to a former Wagner fighter treated at the clinic. He was treated for an injury in the clinic along with five or six other wounded mercenaries. He sustained the injury in Syria, he said.

Another Wagner contractor received medical treatment at the Sogaz clinic also after being wounded in Syria, his mother told Reuters.

In both cases, medical services were free for the fighters, the contractor and the mother said. They did not know who covered the expenses.

The mother said one medical service her son received cost $10,000, she learned from medical documents. Reuters didn’t review these documents and was unable to confirm this.

Asked who was paying for his treatment, Kuznetsov, said he did not know.

Sogaz provides Russian army personnel and members of Russia’s National Guard with life and health insurance, according to an official government database of state contracts.

TIES TO PUTIN

Putin’s elder daughter is co-founder and a board member of another business clinic general director Baranov is also general director of, medical company AO Nomeko, according to company records in the SPARK database and the company’s website. Nomeko lists the Sogaz unit that runs the clinic treating mercenaries as a “partner” on its website, without providing specifics.

She previously pursued a biomedical career specialising in the endocrine system and did so using a married name, Faassen, Reuters reported.

Putin’s daughter now uses Vorontsova as her last name, according to previously published research articles on the website of the medical research institute where she works.

Maria has not publicly confirmed being Putin’s daughter and the Russian president says little about his family life.

A police department in St. Petersburg did not respond to a request for comment about whether the clinic reported treatment of fighters injured overseas.

Sogaz’s deputy chief executive is Mikhail Putin, according to local media a son of one of Putin’s cousins. The Kremlin confirmed he is a distant relative of the president.

A son of another Putin cousin, Mikhail Shelomov, owns a 12.5% stake in Sogaz through a company called Accept, according to official company records.

Yuri Kovalchuk, who Putin publicly referred to as a friend and his wife hold an indirect stake in Sogaz, according to company records. The couple own nearly half of a company controlling 32.3% of Sogaz through another firm called OOO Akvila, the records show.

Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller, who worked at the St. Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s with Putin before he became president, chairs Sogaz’s board of directors, according to the company’s website and company records.

Mikhail Putin, Shelomov, the Kovalchuks, and Miller didn’t respond to requests for comment about treating private military contractors injured in combat overseas. Gazprom declined to comment on questions addressed to Miller and Mikhail Putin.



Akvila and the company the Kovalchuks indirectly hold their stake in Sogaz couldn’t be reached for comment.