Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, meets with Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, second right, and retired Col. Andrey Troshev in Moscow, Sept. 28, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

Putin to unleash private army of mercenaries in Ukraine

By Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered one of the top commanders of the Wagner military contractor to take charge of “volunteer units” fighting in Ukraine, signalling the Kremlin’s effort to keep using the mercenaries after the death of their chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In remarks released by the Kremlin on Friday, Putin told senior Wagner figure Andrei Troshev that his task is to “deal with forming volunteer units that could perform various combat tasks, primarily in the zone of the special military operation” — a term the Kremlin uses for its war in Ukraine.

Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was also present at the meeting late on Thursday, a sign that Wagner mercenaries will likely serve under the Defence Ministry’s command.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Troshev now works for the Defence Ministry and referred questions about Wagner’s possible return to Ukraine to the military.

Wagner fighters have had no significant role on the battlefield since they withdrew after capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.

The meeting appeared to reflect the Kremlin’s plan to redeploy some Wagner mercenaries to the front line in Ukraine following their brief mutiny in June and Prigozhin’s suspicious death in a plane crash on August 23.

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