Putin orders all mercenaries to pledge allegiance to Russia

The new oath is to ensure that all Russian soldiers ‘strictly follow the orders of commanders and superiors’

By James Kilner  and Joe Barnes

Vladimir Putin has ordered Wagner mercenaries to swear an oath of allegiance to him two days after their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in a plane crash widely blamed on the Kremlin.

The order came as Russians fighting for Ukraine urged grieving Wagner fighters to join their ranks, although the mood of the Kremlin mercenaries appeared sombre rather than rebellious.

The new oath aims to build “the spiritual and moral foundations for the defence of the Russian Federation” and ensure that all Russian soldiers and mercenaries “strictly follow the orders of commanders and superiors”.

Prigozhin and nine other people, mainly top Wagner commanders, were killed when his private jet crashed near Moscow on Wednesday afternoon, two months after he launched his mutiny.

Western intelligence agencies have accused Putin of planting a bomb on the plane.

The Kremlin dismissed accusations it ordered Prigozihn’s assassination as an “absolute lie” in the first direct denial.

Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator and close ally of Putin who mediated the deal that ended the mutiny this summer, said he “can’t imagine” the Russian president ordered the assassination.

Earlier on Friday, the Russian Volunteer Corps, a group of Russians fighting for Ukraine, said Wagner mercenaries should join their ranks and avenge Prigozhin’s death.

“Together we’ll march on Moscow and this time we will not stop 200km from the Moscow Ring Road but we will reach the end,” Denis Nikitin, its leader, said referring to the Wagner rebellion in June that Prigozhin called off 120 miles from the Russian capital.

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