Russian Official Says Parliament Working on Law to Regulate Wagner Mercenary Group

Russian Official Says Parliament Working on Law to Regulate Wagner Mercenary Group
Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin makes a statement on the start of withdrawal of his forces from Bakhmut and handing over their positions to regular Russian troops, in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on May 25, 2023. (Press service of "Concord"/Handout via Reuters)

A Russian official said that the country’s parliament, or State Duma, is working on a measure to regulate the Wagner mercenary group following an uprising attempt after its leader made accusations against Moscow.

Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Defense Committee in the Duma, said that the “fate of Wagner” has not yet been “determined,” according to an interview with Russian business newspaper Vedomosti on Sunday. “But it is not necessary to ban it, since this is a combat-ready unit, and there are questions for its leadership, and not for the fighters,” he said.

His comments came after top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow reached an agreement with Wagner for the “return” of the mercenary group “to their locations,” adding that some members “will subsequently sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense.” He added that it concerns those who did not take part in the march” that was ordered by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Under terms of the agreement, Prigozhin will go into exile in Belarus but will not face prosecution and his forces won’t either. Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Prigozhin has been heard from since the deal, brokered by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, was announced Saturday night.

The march, however, has drawn widespread speculation about the future of Putin or the war in Ukraine. In their lightning advance, Prigozhin’s forces on Saturday took control of two military hubs in southern Russia and got within 120 miles of Moscow before retreating.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the weekend’s events as “extraordinary,” recalling that 16 months ago Putin appeared poised to seize the capital of Ukraine and now he has had to defend Moscow from forces led by his onetime protégé. “I think we’ve seen more cracks emerge in the Russian façade,” Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, shakes hands with supporters as he prepares to leave Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

But Blinken cautioned that “it is too soon to tell exactly where they go and when they get there, but certainly we have all sorts of new questions that Putin is going to have to address in the weeks and months ahead.”

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War warned that “the Kremlin now faces a deeply unstable equilibrium.” The “deal is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution,” wrote the institute, which has tracked the war in Ukraine from the beginning.

Another question is what will happen to Prigozhin-owned Wagner in general. The military contractor has deployed forces in several countries where they are believed to fight for Russian interests.

Under terms of the agreement that stopped Prigozhin’s advance, Wagner troops who didn’t back the revolt will be offered contracts directly with the Russian military, putting them under the control of the military brass that Prigozhin was trying to oust. The deal appears to be a hasty arrangement designed to protect Prigozhin and safeguard his money and his family, said Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

It’s not clear if Prigozhin made it to Belarus, and his whereabouts are currently not known. Lukashenko, the Belarus president, has not issued a public comment about the matter.

“You will probably ask me—why Lukashenko?” Peskov told reporters on Saturday. “The fact is that Alexander Grigoryevich (Lukashenko) has known Prigozhin personally for a long time, for about 20 years. And it was his personal proposal, which was agreed with President Putin. We are grateful to the President of Belarus for these efforts.”

“All your questions have been forwarded to Yevgeny Viktorovich [Prigozhin],” a spokesperson for Prigozhin told CNN. “He sends his regards to everyone and will answer questions when he has proper communication.”

Previously, Prigozhin had demanded the ouster of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whom Prigozhin has long criticized in withering terms for how he has conducted the war in Ukraine. The mercenary chief also claimed that Russia wasn’t providing enough support to his forces or Russian troops fighting in Ukraine’s Bakhmut, which was under siege for months.

A possible motivation for Prigozhin’s rebellion was the Defense Ministry’s demand, which Putin backed, that private companies sign contracts with it by July 1. Prigozhin had refused to do it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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