Moscow, September 29
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered one of the top commanders of the Wagner military contractor to take charge of “volunteer units” fighting in Ukraine, signalling the Kremlin’s effort to keep using the mercenaries after the death of their chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Significant role in war
- Wagner mercenaries have played a key role in Moscow’s war in Ukraine, spearheading the capture of Bakhmut in May after months of fierce fighting.
- In June, Wagner’s then chief Yevgeny Prigozhin mutined briefly against Russia, seeking removal of defence ministry leaders. He died in a plane crash later.
In remarks released by the Kremlin on Friday, Putin told Andrei Troshev that his task was to deal with forming volunteer units that could perform various combat tasks, primarily in the zone of the special military operation — a term the Kremlin uses for its war in Ukraine.
Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was also present at the meeting late on Thursday, a sign that Wagner mercenaries would likely serve under the Defense Ministry’s command.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Troshev now worked for the defence ministry and referred questions about Wagner’s possible return to Ukraine to the military. Wagner fighters have had no significant role on the battlefield since they withdrew after capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.
The meeting appeared to reflect the Kremlin’s plan to redeploy some Wagner mercenaries to the front line in Ukraine following their brief mutiny in June and Prigozhin’s suspicious death in a plane crash August 23.
The private army a precious asset the Kremlin wants to exploit. — Agencies
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