Turkmen Mercenary Paid Off Security Ministry on Return from War in Ukraine

A Turkmen citizen of Armenian ethnic origin, Sergey Grigoryan, fought in Ukraine on the Russian side for six months. His mother managed to buy an apartment in the city of Turkmenbashi with the money he earned at the front. But after Sergey returned home, they had to sell the apartment in order to pay off officials of the city department of the Ministry of National Security.

Turkmen national Sergey Grigoryan in Ukraine

Sergey Grigoryan was born in Turkmenbashi in 1997. His mother is a nurse at a children’s clinic. While he was at school, Sergey was convicted of hooliganism for wounding someone with a knife. He left for the war in fall 2022 and came back in summer 2023. He had signed a six-month contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry. It’s not known what led him to do this.

Grigoryan fought near the city of Volnovakha in the Donetsk area. He was wounded once and treated in hospital in Donetsk’s Lenin district.

Turkmen.news has a copy of a written exchange with someone who criticized Grigoryan for taking part in the fighting. Grigoryan said he was fighting “for the truth” and “against fascists” and supposedly protecting the residents of the Donbass. He said: “I’m an ordinary guy. I came because I wanted to — no one told me to do it.” Asked would his mother blame Ukraine if he were killed, he said, “No, why blame Ukraine? Everyone has their own way of life.”

His opponent asked Grigoryan why he didn’t go and fight in his “historic homeland”, Nagornyy Karabakh. He replied that most of his friends are Azerbaijanis so he couldn’t get involved in that conflict.

Over six months Sergey sent his mother around 15,000 dollars. She used this money to buy a one-room flat in Turkmenbashi.

Sergey Grigoryan posing with a gun in Ukraine

In his home town they soon found out where Grigoryan was, though he didn’t particularly try to hide it. He often posted photos of himself carrying weapons and wearing combat fatigues with the label Z and a badge sewn on the shoulder that looked like the Russian flag. Those photos have now been taken down. According to some sources, Grigoryan boasted to his friends in private conversations that he had abused captured Ukrainians.

The logic of Sergey’s actions isn’t entirely clear. If he wanted to tie his future to Russia and receive citizenship, why did he come home so soon and not extend his contract? And if he wanted quietly to earn money, why didn’t he at least try to hide his actions from the Turkmen authorities, as he falls directly under Article 176 of the Criminal Code — “mercenary activities.” Some sources think that the young man initially wanted to leave Turkmenistan for good, but simply couldn’t bear the hardships of war.

To start off with, Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry dealt with Sergey’s relatives. Pressure on loved ones is a common way to punish undesirable migrants who are out of reach of the Turkmen special services. The chief doctor of the clinic where Sergey’s mother worked was reprimanded for insufficient oversight of staff, or to be more exact of the children of staff. The management began to regularly insult the mercenary’s mother in the presence of other employees.

And when Sergey himself returned to Turkmenbashi, he was threatened with prison. Under Article 176, a mercenary is “someone taking part in an armed conflict, military actions or other acts of violence, who is not a citizen of the country involved in the armed conflict or military actions, does not reside permanently on its territory, and is not authorized by the state to carry out official responsibilities, and is acting with the aim of getting material reward.”

The Criminal Code specifies punishment from seven to ten years’ detention for mercenary activities alone. If it is proved that a soldier killed someone in war, the sentence is increased to ten to 20 years, potentially with confiscation of property.

But in Sergey’s case it was only a question of confiscation of property, and not into the state coffers but the pockets of the corrupt. His mother sold the apartment bought with the money received for her son’s participation in the war, and paid a bribe to the Security Ministry officials. As a result, her son remained free. As far as is known, he is not working anywhere at the moment, just hanging around town, where people occasionally give him cigarettes or food. His only direct punishment is to be included on the lists of people not allowed to leave the country. 

The law-enforcement bodies in Turkmenbashi are corrupt to the core. Turkmen.news found out recently that the head of the local police, Begenchmyrat Potdiyev, offers protection for money to businessmen, including those who organize gambling and sell illegal goods. As can be seen, National Security Ministry officials are not averse to turning a blind eye to crime, even serious crimes, for money.

Grigoryan is not the only citizen of Turkmenistan fighting on the Russian side. Turkmen.news recently obtained a short video of a Turkmen citizen in combat fatigues welcoming viewers in Turkmen. He was part of a group of soldiers led by a commander with the call sign Shaman. According to a source, all the members of the group have since died.

A native of Balkanabat, Ashir Berdiyev, died on January 25 in Ukraine. He moved to Russia a long time ago, but his relatives still live in Turkmenistan. They held a memorial for him.

Some observers think the Turkmen authorities have tightened control over migration because of the war. According to some reports, the special services are more active than before in preventing men below the age of 60 leaving the country. It has never been easy to leave Turkmenistan though: the authorities do not approve of ordinary labor migration either.