In a surprising turn of events, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the mercenary group known as Wagner, following a failed mutiny by the group. The Kremlin confirmed that Prigozhin was among the 35 Wagner commanders who were invited to the meeting in Moscow. The encounter between Putin and Prigozhin involved discussions about the ongoing war effort in Ukraine as well as the mutiny itself. This meeting took place after the rebellion, which began on June 23rd, lasted only 24 hours.
As part of the deal to end the mutiny, charges against Prigozhin were dropped, and he was offered a relocation to Belarus. The mutiny saw Wagner troops seizing a city and marching towards Moscow, leading to tensions between Wagner and Russia’s Ministry of Defense. Prigozhin had publicly criticized the ministry for failing to provide adequate ammunition to his group. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that Prigozhin and other commanders were invited to the Kremlin five days after the collapse of the mutiny. Peskov stated that during the meeting, Putin assessed the company’s actions on the front and provided suggestions for their future employment and involvement in combat.
It remains uncertain where Prigozhin is currently located. Last week, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who played a role in brokering the agreement to end the mutiny, claimed that Prigozhin was in Russia. The BBC also documented the movement of Prigozhin’s private jet, which flew to Belarus in late June and returned to Russia on the same evening.
The Wagner Group, a private army that has been fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine since the invasion last year, experienced internal strife as setbacks occurred on the battlefield. Prigozhin took to social media to express his dissatisfaction with the high command, particularly targeting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, the two most senior figures overseeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During the mutiny, Prigozhin did not directly criticize Putin, but analysts consider it to be one of the biggest challenges to the president’s authority during his more than two decades in power. Meanwhile, General Gerasimov made his first public appearance since the mutiny, dispelling speculations that the cancellation of Wagner’s march was linked to his potential dismissal. Footage aired on Russian TV shows Gerasimov issuing orders for the attack on Ukrainian missile sites, indicating that the video was filmed after the mutiny.
The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, after the failed mutiny has raised eyebrows and generated considerable speculation. The discussions between the two individuals shed light on the ongoing Ukraine war effort and the circumstances surrounding the mutiny itself. The repercussions of this meeting and its impact on the dynamics between Wagner, Russia’s Ministry of Defense, and President Putin remain to be seen.