Russian President Vladimir Putin was depicted in a meeting on Friday with one of the highest-ranking former leaders of the Wagner mercenary group, discussing strategies for effectively utilizing “volunteer units” in the Ukraine conflict.
This encounter underscores the Kremlin’s effort to demonstrate that the state now has control over the mercenary organization following a failed mutiny led by Wagner’s chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who, along with other senior commanders, perished in a plane crash in August after the mutiny in June.
Shortly after the mutiny within the Wagner group, Putin extended an offer to the mercenaries to continue their engagement, proposing that Commander Andrei Troshev assume leadership following Prigozhin’s demise, as Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.
The Kremlin stated that Putin met with Troshev, known by his nom de guerre “Sedoi,” or “Grey Hair,” along with Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who was seated closest to Putin, on Thursday night.
Addressing Troshev, Putin discussed their conversation concerning “volunteer units capable of carrying out various combat missions, primarily in the zone of the special military operation.”
Putin remarked, “You yourself have served in such a unit for over a year. You are familiar with it, know how it operates, and understand the issues that need to be addressed beforehand to ensure the success of combat operations.”
Putin also expressed his intention to discuss social support for those involved in combat. The meeting occurred in the Kremlin and was broadcast on state television.
During the meeting, Troshev was shown listening attentively to Putin, leaning forward with a pencil in hand, although his specific remarks were not aired.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov informed the RIA news agency that Troshev is currently employed at the Ministry of Defense.
The fate of Wagner, one of the world’s most battle-hardened mercenary forces, has been uncertain since Prigozhin’s failed mutiny on June 23 and his subsequent death on August 23.
The aborted mutiny is widely seen as the most significant internal challenge to Putin and the Russian state in decades. Prigozhin asserted that the mutiny aimed not to overthrow Putin but to settle scores with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Following Prigozhin’s demise, Putin ordered Wagner fighters to pledge allegiance to the Russian state, a move Prigozhin had opposed.
The Putin meeting suggests that the remaining elements of Wagner will now be overseen by Troshev and Yevkurov, who have recently traveled to several countries where the mercenaries operate.
Troshev, a decorated veteran of Russia’s conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya and a former commander in the SOBR interior ministry rapid reaction force, hails from St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, and has been photographed with the president. He was awarded Russia’s highest honor, the Hero of Russia medal, in 2016 for his role in the liberation of Palmyra in Syria from Islamic State militants.