Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a surprising statement, claiming that the Wagner private military company does not exist as a legal entity. His comments come in the wake of the group’s failed uprising last month, which posed a significant challenge to Putin’s 23-year rule and occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
In an interview with a Russian newspaper on Thursday, Putin addressed the issue of private military organizations, stating that there is no specific law governing such entities. He specifically referred to the Wagner group, known for its involvement in various conflicts, including the war in Ukraine.
During the interview, Putin recounted a Kremlin event that took place on June 29, attended by 35 Wagner commanders, including the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. This meeting occurred just five days after Prigozhin and his troops staged a short-lived revolt against Moscow authorities.
The Kremlin confirmed the occurrence of the meeting earlier this week through an official statement.
According to Putin, during the talks, he offered Wagner military the option of keeping their troops in Ukraine under the leadership of their direct commander. He suggested that they could have continued serving as before, with no significant changes.
Putin stated, “All of them could have gathered in one place and continued to serve. And nothing would have changed for them. They would have been led by the same person who had been their real commander all along.”
The Russian president has previously mentioned that Wagner troops had the choice to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, relocate to neighbouring Belarus, or retire from service.
In his latest interview, Putin revealed that while many of the commanders seemed to agree with his proposal, Prigozhin rejected the idea, asserting that “the boys won’t agree with such a decision.”
According to Putin, this was one of several employment options presented during the meeting.
The Wagner private military company has been the subject of international attention due to its involvement in various conflicts and its alleged connections to the Russian government. Putin’s recent comments add another twist to the story, raising questions about the legal status and official recognition of private military organizations like Wagner.