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Putin wants to keep the Wagner group as a fighting force, but without Prigozhin – ISW

Putin wants to keep the Wagner group as a fighting force, but without Prigozhin – ISW
Russian President Vladimir Putin would rather maintain the Wagner Group as a cohesive fighting force than break it up but wants to separate its financier, Yevgeny Prigozhin, from the group’s leadership and forces. Wagner instructors have left Africa and arrived at the PMC’s training grounds in Belarus, ISW reports.

In an interview for Russian news outlet Kommersant on 13 July, Putin confirmed that he met with Prigozhin and 35 Wagner commanders on 29 June, according to the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Putin reportedly offered Wagner fighters the option to serve under a Wagner commander, known by the callsign “Seda,” who has led Wagner forces for the past 16 months. This move further confirms previous assessments by the ISW that the Kremlin is keen on retaining Wagner as a cohesive fighting force while distancing it from Prigozhin. Putin claimed that “many [Wagner commanders] nodded” in response to his offer, but Prigozhin, “who was sitting in front of his personnel and did not see them nodding,” disagreed with the decision.

When asked directly about Wagner’s future as a combat unit, Putin “continued to maintain the absurd notion that private military companies (PMCs) do not exist in Russia,” according to ISW’s report.

ISW also reports that, according to the Belarusian government confirmation on 14 July, Wagner Group instructors, previously deployed in Africa, have arrived at training grounds in Belarus. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense (MoD) posted footage showing Wagner instructors training Belarusian territorial troops near Asipovichy, Mogilev Oblast. A Belarusian insider source claimed that the Wagner instructors from Wagner’s African contingent arrived in Belarus on July 11 via a convoy from occupied Luhansk Oblast.

Other takeaways from the ISW’s report:

  • Russian authorities detained former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Mikhail Polyakov, who reportedly is the administrator of several popular telegram channels covering internal Kremlin politics.
  • Former 58th Combined Arms Army Commander Major General Ivan Popov’s dismissal continues to generate pronounced ire against the Russian military command and the Russian civilian leadership.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the frontline on July 14 and reportedly made gains in some areas.

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