In a conversation with Kommersant correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed some details of his meeting with Wagner PMC fighters and their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin on June 29. The journalist said that in a conversation with the president, three major issues were discussed: the results of the work of Wagner on the battlefield, the armed rebellion on June 24, and possible options for their further service.
Kolesnikov asked the president why he met with the Wagner fighters, and noted that there are many versions about this.
“Which version can I have? I don’t have a version. I have what actually happened. You or NATO may have a version. What actually happened? Everything is very simple and obvious for the Russian society. Ordinary Wagner fighters fought with dignity, so … The fact that they were involved in these events is regrettable … I will say this, very carefully … “
According to the journalist, it was evident from Putin that he “wanted to express himself carefully.” Kolesnikov also noted that it was important for Putin to meet directly with the commanders of the unit, and not with Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Legal entity “Wagner”
Kolesnikov also asked Putin about the possibility of maintaining the “Wagner” as a combat unit:
“Well, Wagner PMC does not exist! exclaimed Vladimir Putin. “We don’t have a law on private military organizations!” It just doesn’t exist! There is no such entity.”
According to the president, although the Wagner group does exist, it does not legally exist. This issue, he noted, is connected with the real legalization of PMCs and should be discussed in the State Duma and the government.
During a meeting with a journalist, Putin said that 35 people from the formation were present in the Kremlin from Wagner. The President offered them several employment options, including under the leadership of their commander with the call sign “Seda”, under whose command they had been fighting for the past 16 months.
“They could all gather in one place and continue to serve. And nothing would change for them. They would be led by the same person who had been their real commander all along. Many nodded when I said this. And Prigozhin, who was sitting in front and did not see this, said after listening: “No, the guys do not agree with such a decision,” the president said.
Kolesnikov noted that “the story of the Wagner PMC, without a doubt, plowed Vladimir Putin.”
The rebellion of Prigozhin and Wagner
The reason for the start of the armed rebellion by PMC Wagner was the statement of Yevgeny Prigozhin on the evening of June 23, in which he accused the military leadership of the Russian Federation of hitting the positions of his formation, as a result of which “a huge number of fighters died,” and promised to advance with a “march of justice.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense rejected Prigozhin’s accusations and called them an informational provocation. Following this, the FSB opened a criminal case against him “on the fact of calling for an armed rebellion” (Article 279 of the Criminal Code). The department called on PMC fighters “not to make an irreparable mistake, to stop any forceful actions against the Russian people, not to carry out the criminal and treacherous orders of Prigozhin, to take measures to detain him.” Chronicle 24 June. How did the armed rebellion of Yevgeny Prigozhin start and what did Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion lead to?
Around eight in the morning, Prigozhin posted a video from the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don. According to him that day, Wagner fighters blocked the city and took “under control of military facilities, including the airfield.” By the middle of the day, Wagner equipment was seen in the Voronezh and Lipetsk regions, and the military was also moving in the direction of Moscow. In the regions of their route, local authorities blocked traffic and dug up roads, in Moscow they set up checkpoints.
On the evening of June 24, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, in agreement with Putin, held talks with Prigozhin, after which the Wagner columns stopped. According to the head of the PMC, his fighters were already 200 km from Moscow. As the press service of the President of Belarus reported, “an absolutely profitable and acceptable option for solving the situation was found, with security guarantees for the Wagner PMC fighters.”
On the same day, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov announced that the criminal case against Prigozhin about an armed rebellion would be dropped, and he would go to Belarus.
Wagner military equipment was transferred to the balance of the Russian Ministry of Defense, on July 12, the department reported that the transfer process was almost completed.
Preparation of the meeting
On June 29, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he had no information about the whereabouts of Yevgeny Prigozhin. According to him, the Russian authorities do not track data on Prigozhin and do not intend to do so.
On July 6, Lukashenka announced that Prigozhin was not in Belarus.
“As for Yevgeny Prigozhin, he is in St. Petersburg. Where is he this morning? Maybe he went to Moscow in the morning, ”the head of the republic suggested.
The Belarusian leader noted that he sees no risks for the country if there are Wagner fighters on its territory. According to him, now they are in the camps where they were placed after the withdrawal from the front for recovery. At the same time, as Lukashenka recalled, Wagner fighters will stay in Belarus under certain conditions. The main one is that Minsk will use a unit to protect the state in the event of external aggression.
On July 10, Peskov said that Putin had a meeting with Wagner on June 29.
“The only thing we can say is that the president gave an assessment of the company’s actions at the front during the NWO, and also gave his assessment of the events of June 24th. The commanders themselves presented their version of what happened. They emphasized that they were staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state and the supreme commander in chief. They also said that they were ready to continue fighting for the Motherland,” the presidential spokesman said.