Putin’s comments add to the bizarre turn of events that have followed the Wagner private military company’s failed uprising last month, which posed the greatest threat to Putin’s 23-year rule amid the war in Ukraine.
When it comes to private military companies, the law is silent. Putin said this of the Wagner squad late Thursday to a Russian publication.
Putin gave his account of a June 29 event in the Kremlin where 35 Wagner commanders, including the group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, were present to Kommersant. Only five days had passed since Prigozhin and his forces had mounted a spectacular but brief uprising against the Moscow authorities when they met.
A senior Kremlin official made the meeting’s existence public earlier this week.
Putin claimed that during the discussions, Wagner had turned down an offer to maintain its men in Ukraine under the authority of their immediate superior.
Putin told the publication that if the spies had met in one place they might have kept serving without any alteration. The same person who had been their true leader the whole time would have been in charge of them.
Putin has previously stated that Wagner troops were given the option of signing contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, relocating to neighboring Belarus, or retiring.
Putin claims that when he made his proposal, several others nodded, but Prigozhin flatly rejected it, saying, “The boys won’t agree with such a decision.”
Putin stated this was one of numerous job suggestions made during the discussion.
Prigozhin’s mercenaries, in a mutiny that lasted less than 24 hours, drove to within around 200 kilometers of Moscow after capturing the military headquarters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don without firing a shot.
After military leaders demanded that Wagner sign contracts with the Defense Ministry by July 1, Prigozhin led what he called a “march of justice” to remove them.
Although Prigozhin and his mercenaries were offered amnesty and freedom to relocate to Belarus as part of a settlement that put a stop to the armed revolt, the details of the agreement are unclear.
The Wagner mercenaries, according to the Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday, have finished turning over their weapons.
Wagner’s disarmament appears to signal the end of the mercenary group’s actions on the battlefield in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s forces are waging a counteroffensive, and reflects efforts by Russian authorities to minimize the threat they posed.
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