Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Offer to Wagner Mercenaries

Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that he held a meeting with Wagner Group commanders, including chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, just days after their mutinous march on Moscow was foiled. This information was disclosed in comments published in the business daily Kommersant. The meeting, which took place on June 29 and lasted for about three hours, involved discussions about the mercenaries’ actions in Ukraine, their attempted mutiny, and potential future opportunities for service.

During the meeting, Putin proposed the option for Wagner to continue operating under the same commander known as “Gray Hair,” who had led their operations in Ukraine over the past 16 months. Putin emphasized that nothing would have changed for the mercenaries if they agreed to this arrangement, as they would still be led by their familiar commander.

In response to Putin’s offer, several Wagner commanders reportedly nodded in approval. However, Prigozhin, who was sitting in the front and could not see their gestures, quickly rejected the idea, stating that “the boys won’t agree with such a decision.”

Putin did not disclose the specific terms of any eventual settlement with Wagner, if such an agreement was reached. In the past, he mentioned that Wagner fighters had three options: to fight for the Russian Defense Ministry, go into exile in Belarus, or retire from service. Additionally, Putin highlighted the legal ambiguity surrounding private military organizations like Wagner, indicating that there is no existing law governing them, and it remains a subject that the government and parliament have yet to address.

Putin’s Perspective on the Mutiny and Prigozhin

Following the mutiny, Putin worked to discredit Prigozhin and claimed that the Russian people did not support his rebellious takeover of Rostov-on-Don and subsequent march towards Moscow. However, images circulated depicting a seemingly jovial atmosphere after Wagner’s bloodless takeover of the southern city, which also serves as the headquarters of the Russian southern military district command.

Prigozhin has repeatedly asserted that his actions were not a rebellion against Putin but a response to mistreatment of Wagner forces in Ukraine by top military commanders, including Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

Conclusion and Implications

The mutiny, referred to by Prigozhin as a “march for justice,” encountered little resistance and resulted in the downing of several military helicopters and a command post aircraft, causing the death of at least 10 airmen. The crisis was purportedly resolved through the intervention of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered an agreement between Putin and the mercenary leader. However, precise details of this agreement remain undisclosed.

Russia’s Defense Ministry recently announced that Wagner forces were in the process of surrendering their weapons to the Russian military. This disarmament signifies the Russian authorities’ efforts to neutralize the threat posed by Wagner and potentially marks the end of the mercenary group’s operations in Ukraine.

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