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Russia: Wagner Commanders Pledged Loyalty to Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin listening during a meeting with the head of the Udmurt Republic at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 10, 2023.

Russian authorities Tuesday said commanders of the private Wagner military group met with President Vladimir Putin where they pledged loyalty to the Kremlin, five days after staging a short-lived rebellion.

Kremlin officials highlighted that Wagner commanders pledged loyalty to Russia during a three-hour long meeting that involved Putin, mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his commanders.

Russia’s government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov Monday addressed reporters where he said the three-hour long meeting witnessed Wagner commanders pledging readiness to fight "for their homeland."

"The commanders themselves presented their version of what happened," Peskov said, adding, "they underscored that they are staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state and the commander-in-chief, and also said that they are ready to continue to fight for their homeland."

Public comments on the meeting have not been heard from Prigozhin and his fate remains unclear, particularly since the Kremlin’s announcement shows much is negotiated behind closed doors. He could still face prosecution for financial wrongdoing or other charges.

Abbas Gallyamov, a former speech writer for Putin, said the Russian leader acknowledges Prigozhin’s patriotism and needs Wagner forces to fight for the Kremlin, while the mercenary chief needs the East European leader to ensure his freedom from prosecution.

The two are negotiating as allies, with with Prigozhin escaping punishment, Gallyamov added.

Prigozhin "emerged victorious from this rebellion," Gallyamov said in a Zoom interview from Tel Aviv. "He has shown himself to be the master of the situation."

Mark Galeotti, an author who heads the consulting firm Mayak Intelligence, said the delicate dance with Prigozhin is "a further compromise on Putin's part and reflects his unwillingness to take tough and ruthless personnel decisions."

Days after the revolt, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Prigozhin was in Belarus. But last week the president said the mercenary chief was in Russia while his troops remained in their camps.