Prigozhin says Wagner will not sign any contract with Russian Defense Minister

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s most powerful mercenary said on Sunday his Wagner fighters would not sign any contracts with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, publicly refusing an attempt by the Defense Ministry to bring his fighting force under his sway.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, has repeatedly attacked President Vladimir Putin’s top military brass for what he calls treason for failing to conduct the war in Ukraine properly.

Neither Shoigu nor Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov publicly commented on the insults of Prigozhin, whose forces in May took the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut after a battle in which tens of thousands of people perished.

The Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Shoigu had ordered all ‘volunteer detachments’ to sign contracts with its ministry by the end of the month, a move it said would increase the army’s efficiency. Russian.

Although the ministry did not mention Wagner in its public statement, Russian media reported that it was an attempt by Shoigu to bring the mercenaries to heel.

“Wagner will not sign any contract with Shoigu,” Prigozhin said in response to a request for comment on the matter. The order, he said, did not apply to Wagner.

The Ministry of Defense did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries gained notoriety for what the United States said was destabilizing countries in Africa, plundering natural resources and even interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.

He says the United States has destabilized so many countries around the world that Washington has no moral authority to lecture anyone.


Prigozhin said that Wagner was completely subordinate to Russian interests, but that his highly effective command structure would be damaged if he reported to Shoigu.

“Shoigu cannot handle military formations properly,” Prigozhin said, adding that Wagner coordinated his actions in Ukraine with General Sergei Surovikin, dubbed “General Armageddon” by Russian media.

The Ministry of Defense said that in the interest of increasing the effectiveness of “volunteer detachments”, all such units – or their men – should sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense by July 1.

It did not mention Wagner by name, but it regularly referred to Wagner as “volunteer assault detachments”.

“This will give volunteer formations the necessary legal status, create unified approaches for organizing a comprehensive offer and fulfilling their tasks,” the ministry said.

“These measures will increase the combat capabilities and efficiency of the armed forces and their volunteer detachments,” Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said.

Prigozhin said the ministry could use failure to comply with the order as a reason to deprive Wagner of supplies.

“What could happen after this order is that they won’t give us weapons and ammunition. We will find a solution, as they say,” Prigozhin said.

“But when the thunder breaks, they will come running and bring arms and ammunition with a request for help.”

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Jason Neely)

Originally Posted

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