MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin was on Friday shown meeting one of the most senior former commanders of the Wagner group and talking about how volunteer units could fight in Ukraine but the Kremlin said the mercenary now worked for the defence ministry.
The meeting underscored the Kremlin’s attempt to show that the state had now gained control over the mercenary group after a failed June mutiny by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash in August.
Just days after the Wagner’s mutiny, Putin offered the mercenaries the opportunity to keep fighting but suggested that commander Andrei Troshev take over from Prigozhin, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper has reported.
The Kremlin said that Putin had met with Troshev, who is known by his nom de guerre “Sedoi” - or “grey hair”, and Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who sat closest to Putin, on Thursday night.
Addressing Troshev, Putin said that they had spoken about how “volunteer units that can perform various combat tasks, above all, of course, in the zone of a special military operation.”
“You yourself have been fighting in such a unit for more than a year,” Putin said. “You know what it is, how it is done, you know about the issues that need to be resolved in advance so that the combat work goes in the best and most successful way.”
Putin also said that he wanted to speak about social support for those involved in the fighting.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA news agency that Troshev worked at the defence ministry. “He now works in the defence ministry.”
A highly decorated veteran of Russia’s wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Troshev is from St Petersburg, Putin’s home town, and has been pictured with the president.
He fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s decade- long war there. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he served in the North Caucasus with the Russian army and then in SOBR, a quick reaction special forces unit of the Russian interior ministry. He was a commander in the unit.
For his service in Afghanistan, Troshev was awarded the Order of the Red Star twice. He was awarded Russia’s highest medal, Hero of Russia, in 2016 for the storming of Palmyra in Syria against Islamic State militants.