By Theodore Shoebat
On December 16th, 2019, the Syrian Parliament had a meeting in which they passed bills agreeing onthe exploration and production of oil and gas with the “two Russian oil companies”. These two companies were Velada and Mercury. Both companies have been given huge swaths of land to explore for oil. Valeda was given block 23, which is 2159 square meters of gas field, north of Damascus. Mercury received blocks 19 and 7. Block 7 is 9,531 square meters on the left bank of the Euphrates. Gas reserves, according to Syrian Oil and Gas Minister Ali Ghanem, are at least 250 billion cubic meters per block.
Velada is something of enigma. Established in 2015 by Ekaterina Trofimova, the company only has one paid employee, and from 2015-2017, revenue in the accounting reports was shown to be zero, but in 2018, the company made 3.2 million rubles with a total net loss of 27 thousand rubles. According to Russian journalist Denis Korotkov:
We could not find any publicly accessible contacts of Velada – not a phone, nor a website, nor an email address. How a company that does not have experience in exploration and gas production, has no employees or capital, manages to get a contract for a potential 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas in non-peaceful Syria – a mystery.
The report from Korotov states that both oil companies, Velada and Mercury, are tied to Evgeniy Prigozhin, one of the wealthiest men in Russia with very deep connections to the Kremlin and to Wagner, a major Russian mercenary organization with fighters in eastern Ukraine and both the Middle East and Africa. According to numerous reports in Russian and Western media, in 2017 Wagner mercenaries murdered a Syrian civilian named Taha al-Ismail Abdallah. The murderers filmed the carnage and the video was released online. Watching the video, the murderers are definitely speaking Russian. They tortured the man by hitting him repeatedly on his body with a sledgehammer. After he died, they beheaded him with a knife and then severed his arms with a shovel. One of the killers can be heard saying: “Cut him harder. Come on! Break his spine! Keep the legs. We’ll hang him by the legs.” After severing off his limbs, they hanged up his body and set the corpse on fire. This was not revealed in public media until November of 2019, thanks to Novaya Gazeta.
Wagner is really an unofficial part of the Russian military, although it is not mentioned in any legal register and nor does it get any official funds by the Russian government. According to the publication, Alles Europa, Prigozhin is the sponsor the Wagner mercenary company. Prigozihn also is involved in Russia’s internet propaganda apparatus, or more simply put, Russia’s troll factories that produce news stories that bolster Putin and Russian policy, and promote Trump and nationalist movements like Brexit, Catalonian separatism and German nationalism. According to an AP report:
Prigozhin was indicted in the U.S. last year in an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 election. The indictment said he funded the Internet Research Agency, a “troll factory” in Russia’s St. Petersburg that used social media accounts to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”
But he also is the suspected mastermind of a company called Wagner that has been sending private military contractors to fight in Syria, Ukraine and African countries.
Alles Europe also reported that Prigozhin network is tied to the influential Euro Policy Company, which according to the Novoya Gazeta, was part of the oil agreement between Russia and Syria in order to have Wagner clear out oil and gas fields for Russia:
The leading role in the Syrian project is played by Euro Policy. In December 2016, during the visit of the Syrian Minister Ghanem to Moscow and a meeting with the Minister of Energy of Russia Alexander Novak, agreements were signed between Euro Policy and the Syrian State Oil Corporation subordinate to Ganem, according to which Euro Policy (people who are better known) under the Wagner PMC brand), it undertook to conduct military operations to liberate oil and gas fields in exchange for a quarter of the volume of subsequent production.
With this in mind it is clear as to one of the reasons why Russia wants Syria: oil and natural gas. What we are seeing is a competition of the great powers over Africa’s and the Middle East’s resources, be it Italy, France, Turkey and Germany in Libya, or Russia in Libya and Syria — we are seeing a rivaling between Europeans over oil and natural gas. Of course its not solely about oil and gas, but ultimately about geopolitical power. By establishing an oil deal with Syria, Russia then becomes a huge source of income for the Syrian economy, thus making Syria dependent on Russia, and thus controlled by Russia. The race over the Middle East and Morocco is a presaging sign of another European conflict. In 1911, just a few years before the outbreak of the Great War, France and Germany competed over Morocco, and today Libya is a major point of contention between Italy and France, and Germany and Turkey are both in Libya while Russia is deeply entrenched in the politics of that North African country. It is a race over natural gas, before the fumes of death will cloud over Europe.