In a January 25, 2019 article, Reuters, citing Russian veterans’ affairs activist Yevgeny Shabayev, reported that Russia’s ChVK Vagner Group, a private military company, had flown about 400 individuals to Venezuela to defend President Nicolas Maduro, a Moscow ally, against the opposition movement led by National Assembly President Juan Guaido.
Shabayev, an outspoken critic of Vagner’s operations, told Current Time that he had contacted Reuters to find out for worried relatives whether any Vagner fighters had been spotted in Venezuela. In an interview with anchor Timur Olevsky, he elaborated about his understanding of how the Vagner deployments work.
The ataman, or leader, of the Khovrino Cossack Society, Shabayev also heads the All-Russia Officers’ Assembly, a gathering of various veteran groups, with links to the opposition Action Party.
In late 2018, the Assembly appealed to the International Criminal Court to investigate the Vagner Group for alleged abuses of recruits’ rights under Russian law. To date, no investigation appears to have ensued.