Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his account June 29 meeting and Wagner rebel Yevgeny Prigozhin and his men in the Kremlin after the military coup, claiming that he gave the fighters a chance to continue fighting in Ukraine.
Speaking to a reporter from the Russian government Kommersant On Thursday, Putin said 35 Wagner veterans had accompanied Prigozhin to a three-hour meeting in the Kremlin last month. The Russian president said he had offered Wagner’s troops several options, including continuing to serve under the command of a man he identified by a sign calling him “Sedoy,” meaning “hairy,” with whom he had served for 16 months.
“All of them could have gathered in one place and continued to serve,” Putin said, “and nothing would have changed for them. They would have been led by the same person who has been their real leader all this time.”
“Many people shook their heads when I said that,” continued Putin, “and Prigozhin, who was sitting in front but did not see this, said when he heard me: ‘No, the boys do not agree with this idea.'”
Putin also tried to reduce the actions of Wagner’s forces which, under the leadership of Prigozhin, traveled to Moscow on June 24, patrolling the Russian territory and asking for the resignation of the Minister of Defense of the President Sergei Shoigu and the Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
“Everything is simple and obvious to the Russian people. That he was dragged into this situation is unfortunate,” Putin said, according to Kommersant (which provided an incomplete account of his comments, including ellipses).
Putin added: “I will say it this way, very carefully… what happened on June 24. Thirdly, I showed them what they can do to continue their service, including fighting. That’s it.”
When asked if the Wagner Private Military Company would remain a fighting force, Mr Putin appeared to be angry.
“‘Well, PMC Wagner isn’t there!’ Vladimir Putin shouted,” according to Kommersant.
The President continued: “We do not have a law against secret armies! It doesn’t exist!”
Last month, Shoigu ordered “all volunteer units” on the front line in Ukraine to sign agreements with the Ministry of Defense by July 1, forcing the units to align with the Kremlin, or face being considered illegal. The move was seen as a power grab in response to Prigozhin’s increasing popularity and growing support, and Wagner’s leadership. to reject the plan and then he started his rebellion.
“There is no official body” like PMC Wagner, Putin said on Thursday, Kommersant assumed that he was speaking as a lawyer (the Russian president studied law at university).
Wagner’s forces supported Putin’s war in Ukraine, and the forces were used in other bloody battles, including in Bakhmut. But according to at the Pentagon, since the coup attempt, Wagner “does not play any role in supporting the war in Ukraine.”