Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that Wagner had offered mercenaries from the private military company the option of remaining as a unit under the same officer, five days after the group’s abortive rebellion posed the most serious threat last month. His 23-year rule during the war in Ukraine.
In remarks to Kommersant, a business daily published on Friday, Putin described a June 29 Kremlin event attended by 35 Wagner commanders, including the group’s chief, Yevgeny Prigogine. He said he spoke to them about their activities in Ukraine and their rebellion. In a televised address to the nation, he condemned the act as treasonous and offered them various alternatives for future service.
Putin told Kommersant that Wagner will be seen serving under the same commander, nicknamed Gray Hair, who has been leading the military company’s operations in Ukraine for the past 16 months.
“They could have all gathered in one place and continued to serve,” Putin told the newspaper, “and nothing would have changed for them. They were led by the same person who had always been their original commander.
Many of Wagner’s commanders nodded at his suggestion, but Prigozhin, sitting in front, quickly rejected the idea without seeing their reaction, replying that “the boys would not agree to such a decision.”
Putin did not say what instructions Wagner commanders took.
The Russian president previously said the Wagner soldiers had to decide whether to sign a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry, move to neighboring Belarus or retire from service.
Putin also pointed out that Wagner acted without a legal basis.
“There is no law for private military organizations. It simply does not exist,” he told Kommersant, adding that the government and parliament have yet to discuss the issue of private military contractors.
In an uprising that lasted less than 24 hours on June 23 and 24, Prigozh’s mercenaries swept through the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, captured the military headquarters there without firing a shot, and drove them within about 200 km (125). miles) of Moscow. Prigogine described the move as a “march of justice” to oust Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov, who demanded that Wagner sign the deal with the Defense Ministry by July 1.
The insurgency met little resistance, with fighters destroying at least six military helicopters and a command post aircraft, killing at least 10 airmen. Prigogine called his mercenaries back to their camps after they negotiated an end to the rebellion in exchange for an amnesty for himself and the mercenaries and permission to move to Belarus.
The Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that while Prigosh’s fate and the terms of the deal remain unclear, Wagner is finalizing the transfer of weapons to the Russian military.
Disarming Wagner reflects efforts by Russian authorities to eliminate the threat they pose and appears to put an end to the mercenary group’s activities on the battlefield in Ukraine, where Kiev’s military is engaged in a counteroffensive.
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