Putin says Prigozhin rejected his offer for Wagner to keep serving

By Anadolu Agency

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he offered the Wagner mercenaries the chance to keep fighting for the army at a meeting just days after their attempted mutiny, but the group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin rejected his offer.

“All of them could gather in one place and continue to serve. And nothing would have changed for them. They would be led by the same person (Prigozhin) who was their real commander all this time,” Putin told Russian daily Kommersant late on Thursday.

Read: How Russian Organized Crime Group Wagner Gained Dominance in Africa

Read: How Russian Organized Crime Group Wagner Gained Dominance in Africa

The Russian leader said many people nodded when they heard his offer at the Kremlin meeting on June 29. “But Prigozhin, who was sitting in front of them and did not see this, said, after listening – no, the guys do not agree with this decision,” he added.

Asked what really happened on June 24, when Prigozhin announced his intention to overthrow Russia’s military chiefs, Putin said “the rank-and-file fighters of Wagner … were drawn in these events.”

He further said: “On the one hand, at a meeting with them, I gave an assessment of what they did on the battlefield, and on the other hand, what they did during the events of June 24. Third, showed possible options for further service, including in the war zone. That’s all.”

Read: How Russian Organized Crime Group Wagner Gained Dominance in Africa

As for the group, there is no such a legal entity as the Wagner private military company and there is no legal basis for creating it.

“The group exists, but legally does not exist. This is a separate issue related to real legalization. But this is an issue that should be discussed in the State Duma, in the government. A difficult question,” Putin said.

On June 24, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin accused the Russian Defense Ministry of attacking the group’s fighters, declared a “March of Justice” and set off toward Moscow.

The Russian Federal Security Service designated the group’s action “an armed rebellion” and opened a criminal case against Prigozhin, while Putin called the private military company’s uprising an act of “treason.”

Prigozhin, however, later turned back “to avoid bloodshed” and has since moved to Belarus under a deal brokered by President Alexander Lukashenko.

The Belarusian president, however, said last week that the Wagner chief is not in Belarus but in Saint Petersburg, Russia. His current whereabouts are unknown.