According to President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, has turned down a request from his warriors to join the Russian army.
According to him, during recent talks in Moscow, a majority of group commanders supported the idea of having a senior Wagner figure lead the group.
He claimed that in response, Prigozhin remarked, “The guys do not agree with this decision.”
The discussions took place only a few days after Wagner’s botched uprising against Mr. Putin on June 23–24.
The mercenaries were given the option to join the regular Russian army or move to Belarus, a close friend of Russia, as part of the agreement that put an end to the brief uprising.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, Wagner has engaged in some of the fiercest combat.
The group is no longer “participating in any meaningful capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine,” according to the US military’s latest assessment.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder made the remarks on Thursday and added that “the majority” of Wagner fighters were still thought to be in regions of Russian-occupied Ukraine.
Separately, the territorial defense forces of Belarus are now being instructed by Wagner fighters, according to the defense ministry of Belarus on Friday.
The fighters were reportedly instructing Belarusian forces “in a number of military disciplines” close to the town of Osipovichy, which is located around 85 kilometers (53 miles) south-east of the capital city.
President Putin claimed that 35 Wagner commanders, including Prigozhin, had attended the meeting at the Kremlin on June 29 in an interview with the business daily Kommersant on Thursday.
Mr. Putin claimed to have provided them with a number of “employment options,” including the chance to continue serving under the supervision of a senior Wagner commander known by the alias Sedoi – Grey Hair.
“Many [Wagner fighters] were nodding when I was saying this,” Mr. Putin remarked.
The president continued, “Prigozhin, who was seated in front and missed all of this, said after hearing: ‘No, the guys do not agree with this decision.'”
When questioned if the squad will be kept as a fighting unit, he added that “Wagner does not exist.” The existence of private military organizations is unregulated. It just does not exist.
Mr. Putin urged that the “difficult issue” of how to legalize Wagner fighters be debated in parliament.
According to the BBC’s Russia reporter in Moscow, Steve Rosenberg, the Kremlin appears to seek to draw a distinction between the Wagner head and normal Wagner warriors in order to drive a wedge between them.
This would, he continues, explain the efforts made by the state-run media in Russia to discredit Prigozhin.
The current whereabouts of Prigozhin, a former Putin loyalist, are unknown.
Additionally on Thursday, US Vice President Joe Biden warned Prigozhin to be cautious about poisoning in the wake of the uprising.
“Only God knows what he’s going to do. Even now, we don’t know who he is or how he is connected to Mr. Putin. I’d watch what I ate if I were him. I would pay attention to my menu, Mr. Biden added.
Speaking in Helsinki during a conference with Nordic leaders, he added that there was no chance Mr. Putin could succeed in his campaign in Ukraine.
The president declared that “he’s already lost that war.”
The president of Russia might eventually “decide it’s not in Russia’s interest, economically, politically, or otherwise, to continue this war,” according to Mr. Biden. I am unable to foresee the specifics of that, though.
He also voiced “hope and expectation” that the current counteroffensive by Ukraine will advance far enough to allow for a negotiated peace agreement.
But after more than a month of the well prepared Ukrainian counteroffensive, some Ukrainians and their allies are raising questions about the military movement of Kyiv.
Others think that Russia’s defenses would eventually fail, allowing Ukraine to take control of strategically important land and march toward Crimea, the southern peninsula of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014.
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