Putin Offers Wagner Mercenaries Chance to Continue Serving After Failed Mutiny, Reveals Legal Limbo

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an offer to Wagner mercenaries to continue serving after their failed mutiny, according to an interview he gave to the Kommersant business daily. Putin mentioned that during a meeting with 35 Wagner officers and founder Yevgeny Prigozhin at the Kremlin, just five days after the revolt, he told them that nothing would have changed for them if they had gathered in one place and continued to serve. He also added that they would have been led by their real commander, who was still in charge.

The Wagner commander, identified by the call sign “Sedoy” (“Gray-haired”), was previously named Andrei Troshev, a former police colonel and veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, according to previous reports. However, Putin didn’t clarify whether his offer would have them stay in Russia or go into exile in neighboring Belarus, as part of the original deal to end the crisis.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had earlier claimed that Wagner fighters would be deployed in his country to train the Belarusian military, after mediating talks between Putin and Prigozhin. Although Prigozhin rejected the offer, Putin mentioned that some Wagner commanders were prepared to accept it.

During the Kremlin talks, Putin presented several possible options for Wagner’s further services, including in combat. However, he acknowledged the legal limbo the group is in, stating that there is no law on private military organizations in Russia. Putin suggested that the issue of legalization should be discussed in the State Duma and the government.

The Kremlin stated that Russia could potentially grant legal status to private military groups, offering greater direct control over them. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that this issue would be considered. Notably, private military companies like Wagner are currently prohibited under Russian law.

In late June, Putin had revealed that Wagner received approximately $1 billion in funding from state coffers over the past year, after years of denying any links between the Russian state and the mercenary group. This disclosure was a significant departure from the previous official stance.

Overall, Putin’s offer to the Wagner mercenaries after their failed mutiny sheds light on the complex relationship between the Russian state and private military organizations. The issue of legalizing such groups in Russia remains unresolved, and experts believe that granting them legal status would give the government greater control but also raise concerns about their potential abuse of power. The fate of the Wagner mercenaries and their future involvement in conflicts around the world continue to be subjects of debate and speculation.