Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with a former top commander of the Wagner Group on Thursday to discuss the use of “volunteer units” in Ukraine. A separate intelligence report claimed that “hundreds” of the organization’s fighters had likely begun moving to the Ukrainian battlefield.
Thursday’s Kremlin meeting between Putin and Andrei Troshev – the Wagner commander known as “gray hair” – comes a month after the plane crash of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner founder who led a failed mutiny against the Russians in June Russian military leadership led. The meeting appeared to be an attempt to highlight that the Kremlin is now in control of the organization that once posed the biggest challenge to Putin’s authority during his rule in Russia.
The meeting, parts of which were broadcast on Russian state television, was also attended by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who recently traveled to several countries where Wagner worked. The broadcast apparently suggested that Wagner’s remains would be under the control of Yevkurov and Troshev – and, more importantly, the Kremlin itself.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed this to the state news agency RIA Novosti that Troshev now works in the Russian Defense Ministry. After Wagner’s failed uprising and Prigozhin’s death, Putin ordered the group’s mercenaries to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state – a move many of the group’s members had rejected.
In comments broadcast on state television, Putin was seen telling Troshev that they had discussed how “volunteer units that can carry out various combat tasks, especially, of course, in the zone of special military operations,” referring to on the war in Ukraine.
“You yourself have been fighting in such a unit for more than a year,” Putin said. “You know what it is, how it is done, you know what problems need to be solved in advance so that combat work goes optimally and successfully.”
Wagner’s status has been unclear since the failed mutiny and Prigozhin’s death, although many of his former members have since joined Russia’s formal army while others have joined other private military companies, Russian sources reported Reuters.
According to a confirming British intelligence report Many of the mercenaries are likely to be on their way back to Ukraine on Friday. “In recent weeks, up to hundreds of fighters formerly associated with the private military company Wagner Group (PMC) have likely begun moving to Ukraine as individuals and small groups to fight for various pro-Russian entities.” , the British Ministry of Defense said.
The report added that Wagner withdrew from combat operations in Ukraine “in early June” before the mutiny and death of Prigozhin and other Wagner leaders. British defense analysts said it was “likely” that many of the group’s mercenaries had now joined other PMCs or the official Russian forces.
“Several reports indicate a concentration of Wagner veterans around Bakhmut: their experience is likely to be particularly sought after in this sector,” the intelligence report said, referring to the eastern Ukrainian city that Wagner captured after months of some of the bloodiest fighting since Putin’s invasion began last year. “Many will be familiar with the current front line and local Ukrainian tactics, having fought on the same terrain last winter.”