This is what Putin said in an interview. Commander-in-Chief Prigozhin rejected the offer.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has offered the mercenaries of Wagner’s private army the opportunity to continue fighting in Ukraine under their own command – despite the previous revolt against the military leadership. The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is said to have rejected the offer, as Putin described in an interview with the newspaper “Kommersant”.
Five days after the uprising, Putin met Prigozhin and around three dozen mercenaries in the Kremlin and made the offer. “They could have all gathered in one place and continued their service and nothing would have changed,” said the Kremlin chief. What’s more, “They would have been led by the same person who had been their actual commander all along.” Many of those present nodded, Putin told the newspaper.
The Russian President had previously stated that the Wagner troops would have to decide whether they wanted to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, move to neighboring Belarus or retire.
According to Putin, the Wagner Group does not legally exist
Prigozhin rejected the offer. “No, the men do not agree with such a decision,” said the Wagner boss, according to Putin. The private army was dissolved – “it just doesn’t exist”.
In an interview, Putin indirectly admitted that the Russian leadership deliberately relied on an illegal organization in the war against Ukraine. “We don’t have a law on private military organizations,” said the Kremlin chief. “The group does exist, but legally it doesn’t exist.”
War against Ukraine and attack on Russia
For months, the Wagner mercenary force had fought alongside regular Moscow troops in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. She regularly made headlines for months of fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
At the end of June, however, after an alleged attack by Russian troops on the Wagner camp, Prigozhin had the city of Rostov-on-Don occupied and sent military columns towards Moscow. At the time, Putin spoke of “treason.” Shortly before Moscow, after negotiations with the Kremlin, in which Belarus’ ruler Alexander Lukashenko acted as mediator, Prigozhin ordered the withdrawal.
Pentagon: Majority of mercenaries still in Ukraine
The armed group tried to overthrow the Russian military leadership with an uprising in June. Wagner fighters had occupied the Russian army headquarters in the city of Rostov-on-Don in the south-west of the country for several hours and then advanced towards Moscow.
However, the uprising ended on the same day with an agreement that provided for the Wagner boss to leave the country for Belarus. President Vladimir Putin gave the fighters the freedom to join the regular army, travel to Belarus or return to civilian life.
According to the US Department of Defense, the majority of the mercenaries are apparently still in Russian-held areas of Ukraine. Accordingly, the remaining fighters are currently not significantly involved in combat operations in Ukraine. “At this stage we do not see Wagner troops engaging in combat operations in Ukraine on a significant scale,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said.