Putin Says Wagner Can Keep Fighting for Russia, but Without Prigozhin

Putin Says Wagner Can Keep Fighting for Russia, but Without Prigozhin
Putin Says Wagner Can Keep Fighting for Russia, but Without Prigozhin

Three weeks after a short mutiny in Russia by the Wagner mercenary group, President Vladimir V. Putin mentioned its troops might preserve preventing, however with out their controversial chief, whereas the federal government of Belarus mentioned some Wagner fighters have been there, coaching its forces.

The way forward for Wagner and its personnel, who’ve performed an necessary function in Mr. Putin’s conflict in opposition to Ukraine, stays doubtful, a part of the dissension and turmoil within the Russian navy hierarchy that has spilled into public view because the rebel. However the Russian chief made clear that he intends to sideline the Wagner boss Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who directed the rebellion.

Mr. Putin, in an interview printed late on Thursday, gave an account of a three-hour meeting in the Kremlin, simply days after the rebellion, with Mr. Prigozhin and his high commanders. Mr. Putin, who has tried arduous because the mutiny to reveal his unassailable management over state affairs, offered himself within the interview as a coolheaded arbiter towering above the tumult, and portrayed the mutiny as a minor inside dispute that he had resolved.

He mentioned he had praised Wagner fighters for his or her navy feats, and instructed {that a} totally different Wagner chief take over from Mr. Prigozhin, in keeping with Kommersant, a Russian enterprise each day that, together with a journalist from state tv, carried out the interview. He mentioned he advised the Wagner troops that he “regretted that that they had appeared dragged” into the mutiny, showing to pin the blame on Mr. Prigozhin.

“I outlined the potential paths for his or her future navy service, together with in fight,” Mr. Putin mentioned. “Many nodded as I used to be talking,” he added, however Mr. Prigozhin, who he mentioned sat within the entrance and didn’t see the nodding, responded that the “guys don’t agree with such a choice.”

The federal government has ordered that Wagner troops who intend to maintain preventing signal contracts with the Ministry of Protection, in impact turning into a part of Russia’s common navy, which Mr. Prigozhin bitterly protested. However Mr. Putin’s newest feedback appeared to depart open the likelihood that there might proceed to be Wagner models.

Mr. Putin needs to attract a pointy distinction between Wagner fighters, whose expertise and experience he can exploit, and the mercenary chief he now sees as reckless and untrustworthy, in keeping with Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace.

“They wish to protect the core of Wagner however underneath totally different management, one that’s clearly rather more loyal, and even controllable,” Ms. Stanovaya mentioned in a cellphone interview.

“That assembly was an indication of reconciliation; not within the sense that the battle is over, however within the sense that there at the moment are guidelines of the sport — you need to comply with them,” she added.

A Kremlin spokesman first disclosed the meeting early this week, saying that the Wagner commanders had aired their considerations — a hanging admission contemplating that days earlier, Mr. Putin had denounced the rebellion’s leaders as traitors.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, who helped dealer the tip of Wagner’s rebellion on June 24, mentioned quickly afterward that his nation would welcome its fighters, and the Belarusian navy rapidly erected tent housing for hundreds of troops at a disused base 9 miles from the city of Asipovichy, about 50 miles southeast of the capital, Minsk. However final week, Mr. Lukashenko mentioned there have been no Wagner troops but in Belarus, and the navy invited foreign journalists to the camp to indicate that it was unoccupied.

On Friday, although, the Belarusian protection ministry mentioned in a press release that Wagner troopers have been instructing members of a Belarusian navy power in protection and battlefield ways. A state tv channel broadcast video of what its correspondent mentioned was coaching by Wagner fighters “at a coaching base close to Asipovichy,” however the affiliations of the troops within the video couldn’t be independently verified. A protection ministry spokeswoman confirmed that at the very least a part of the video was taken on the identical website as the brand new tent camp.

Mr. Lukashenko, more and more depending on and subordinate to Mr. Putin, has made clear that he want to have an skilled preventing power like Wagner at his disposal. In late June, in feedback proven on state tv, he urged his protection minister, Viktor Khrenin, to profit from the chance.

“They are going to inform you about weapons — which labored nicely, which didn’t,” Mr. Lukashenko mentioned. “And ways, and weapons, and assault, defend. It’s priceless.”

Mr. Prigozhin has mentioned his rebel was not aimed toward toppling Mr. Putin, however at eradicating the navy leaders in Moscow he had spent months denouncing as inept in foul-mouthed tirades that the president tolerated. After sending an armored column rolling towards the capital, he known as off their advance after receiving assurances that he and the Wagner troops wouldn’t be punished.

The Pentagon said on Thursday that Wagner troops are now not believed to be preventing in a significant capability in Ukraine. And the Russian Protection Ministry mentioned on Wednesday that Wagner fighters had given up a number of their weapons and gear.

With the mercenaries apparently inactive and largely disarmed, the Kremlin has been making a transparent try and diminish the function of their unruly chief. Mr. Prigozhin’s media empire, together with a number of information web sites, has been shut down, and his St. Petersburg mansion has been an everyday characteristic of Russian state tv, which portrayed its proprietor as a petty and immoral thug stockpiling money, weapons, passports and probably medicine.

There have additionally been indicators of a shake-up reinforcing the grip of the navy institution that Mr. Prigozhin deplored. Gen. Sergei V. Surovikin, chief of the Russian air forces and a former chief of forces in Ukraine, seen as a Prigozhin ally, reportedly knew upfront of the mutiny and has not been seen publicly since; a high lawmaker mentioned this week that the overall was “taking a relaxation.”

On Wednesday night time, a recording was made public of Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov accusing his superiors of undermining the conflict effort with dishonesty, and telling his troops that he had been removed from command of a Russian military in Ukraine for daring to talk in truth in regards to the flawed conduct of the conflict. Different commanders are mentioned to have been questioned or detained, at the very least briefly.

Up to now the turmoil doesn’t seem to have helped Ukrainian forces as they struggle to retake territory in a slow-moving counteroffensive that started in early June.

Russia has launched a number of waves of assault drones at Ukrainian cities in current days, together with in a single day into Friday morning, and it continues to bombard cities inside artillery vary. The Ukrainian authorities mentioned on Friday that that they had shot down 16 of 17 drones in a single day.

Mr. Putin has recognized as probably the brand new chief of Wagner a person generally known as “Sedoi,” or “Grey-haired,” who the president mentioned had been the precise commander of Wagner troops because the full-scale invasion of Ukraine final 12 months. European Union sanctions documents, Wagner-linked bloggers, and Russian media outlets have recognized Sedoi as Andrei N. Troshev, a veteran of wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The sanctions paperwork referred to Mr. Troshev as a “founding member” and “govt director” of Wagner.

Mr. Putin has maintained an ambiguous stance on Wagner’s future, apparently leaving his choices open. Days after the mutiny, he mentioned that Russia had paid Wagner almost $1 billion in a single 12 months, however within the interview reported by Kommersant, he mentioned that Wagner “doesn’t exist,” at the very least legally.

“We don’t have a legislation on non-public navy organizations,” Mr. Putin mentioned. “There isn’t such a authorized entity.”

Valerie Hopkins contributed reporting.

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