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    Putin Puts Former Wagner Commander in Charge of Ukraine Mercenaries

    Putin’s New Strategy: Wagner Mercenaries Return to Ukraine Under Defense Ministry, Reviving Their Role in Conflict

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has assigned a prominent leader from the Wagner military group a new role, indicating Russia’s intent to continue employing these mercenaries despite the passing of their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Putin has tasked Andrei Troshev with organizing volunteer units to perform various military duties, particularly in the active conflict zones within Ukraine.

    During a recent meeting held last Thursday, the presence of Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov raised strong indications that the Wagner mercenaries could soon be operating under the authority of the Defense Ministry. Adding to this development, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, issued a statement last Friday.

    Peskov confirmed Andrei Troshev’s official affiliation with the Defense Ministry and redirected inquiries concerning the potential return of the Wagner group to Ukraine to the military, essentially suggesting, “For more insights on this matter, consult the military.”

    Wagner Group in Ukraine

    The Wagner fighters have not actively participated in combat operations since their successful capture of Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine. This particular battle was one of the most prolonged and most brutal confrontations in the ongoing conflict. The recent meeting signifies a notable shift in the Kremlin’s strategy, indicating a contemplation of sending some of the Wagner mercenaries back to Ukraine.

    This strategic decision follows a tumultuous period for the group, characterized by a brief uprising in June and the tragic loss of their leader, Prigozhin, in an August plane crash. Notably, the Wagner private army, once a potent force boasting a substantial troop presence, seems to be a prized asset that the Kremlin is keen on reactivating.

    Russian paramilitary in Ukraine

    In June, a rebellion aimed to remove the leadership of the Russian Defense Ministry, as Prigozhin accused them of mismanaging the Ukraine war and attempting to gain control over Wagner. The mercenaries even seized a Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and advanced toward Moscow before abruptly halting their mutiny.

    Putin labeled them “traitors,” but negotiations quickly led to the rebellion’s resolution in exchange for amnesty. Mercenaries were given the choice to retire, move to Belarus, or sign new contracts with the Defense Ministry.

    In July, Putin held a meeting with 35 Wagner commanders, including Prigozhin, and suggested they continue serving under Troshev, also known as “Gray Hair.” However, Prigozhin declined the offer at that time. Troshev, a retired military officer, has played a significant role in Wagner since its inception in 2014, earning him sanctions from the European Union due to his role as the group’s executive director in Syria.

    The Wagner mercenaries have played a pivotal role in Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. They were responsible for capturing Bakhmut in May after a protracted and fierce battle. Presently, Ukrainian forces are striving to retake the city as part of their summer counteroffensive. However, the prospect of adverse weather conditions may hinder their progress.

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