Vladimir Putin has allegedly used mercenaries
Russian newspaper Fontanka found the Kremlin hired fighters paid by the Wagner company to take part in Russia’s conflicts.
And Russia even decorated some of the fighters for their services.
Although Wagner does not officially exist, because Russia bans private military companies, it has a training camp in the Russian village of Molkino.
In the past, Mr Putin has spoken in public about how mercenary companies could be used to conduct so-called deniable operations.
In 2012, when he was Russian Prime Minister, he argued they should be legalised saying they were “a tool for the implementation of national interests without direct participation of the state”.
Armoured lorries near Molkino
And areas around the city of Donetsk are controlled by an armed insurgency while parts of the south have seen pro-Russian protests.
Last September Russia launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria which were claimed to be targeting Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis.
While earlier this month Russia said they were pulling troops out of Syria, their bombers helped recapture Palmyra from the clutches of ISIS over the weekend.
Putin’s stance on Syria has meant Russia has had to be more wary of jihadists, with 20 ISIS recruiters arrested in Russia over the weekend.