The new head of the Wagner Group appeared for the first time in a video – and everything indicates that the controversial mercenaries now belong to the Russian National Guard, which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin.
For the Kremlin, it is important to ensure that Wagner's soldiers are now loyal to it, says a VG expert. It refers to the attempted coup led by Prigozhin in June 2023.
The new president's name is Anton Gilizarov. The old leader of the Wagner Group Dmitry Utkin and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin died in the same plane crash in August 2023.
– He says in the video that Wagner's soldiers have always protected, protected and will always protect the Russian people, which is interesting, because I think that with this sentence he is following in the footsteps of Prigozhin as a “protector of the Russian people,” Karin Philippa Larsen from the Danish Institute for International Studies tells VG .
This is what Prigozhin often used in his struggle with military leaders, whom he often accused of sitting in “expensive clubs” away from the front and not suffering during the war in the same way as most Russians, Larsen continues.
British intelligence expected The tenth:
The Russian state wants the Wagner Group to be affiliated with Rosgvardia, in order to remove any potential threat that Wagner may pose to the Russian regime.
Rosgvardia is the Russian National Guard, which has 340,000 employees and is therefore directly subordinate to President Putin.
– Rosgvardia may be preparing a unit of experienced Wagner soldiers to bolster the Russian war effort in Ukraine and expand Russian influence in Africa, British intelligence writes.
Karen Philippa Larsen was not surprised:
– It is not surprising that they are directly affiliated with the National Guard. We heard rumors about this already last year.
– Now they are directly under Putin's rule?
-Yes they do! The National Guard reports directly to Putin. Perhaps this is another attempt to ensure loyalty. Perhaps also to appeal to those who more closely shared Prigozhin's criticism of the military summits. Those who have been the most critical may not want to sign on to the Department of Defense, but some may be more attracted to becoming part of the National Guard.
British intelligence also explains this Video on Telegram The Wagner Group is working to build a new headquarters in the city of Rostov in southern Russia, near the border with Ukraine. In the same complex, soldiers of Rosjvardia and the 150th Mechanized Infantry Division will be stationed.
This is thus seen as confirmation of the Kremlin's complete control over the Wagner Group.
At the end of June 2023, Wagner's then owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, sent his forces towards Moscow. They didn't go very far, but it was interpreted as an attempted coup by Wagner's controversial boss.
Two months later, Prigozhin, Wagner founder Utkin, and other leaders of the group died in a plane crash that most experts interpret as a staged accident — that is, an assassination.
– After the uprising and Prigozhin's death, the group split. Immediately after the mutiny, all of Wagner's soldiers were told that they had the choice of signing a contract with the Ministry of Defense, laying down their arms and returning home, or going to Belarus with Prigozhin, who was then still alive. So we can say that they were already divided at that time.
– We later heard that Redut, another private mercenary company, had recruited some Wagner soldiers and now there was another opportunity for the soldiers to return to the front through the National Guard.
– Why is this happening?
– The military and political leadership in Moscow wants to benefit from the experience possessed by the Wagner Group. Therefore, it is very likely that we will see more and more former Wagner soldiers returning to combat in Ukraine.
– Aren't they afraid of another rebellion?
Yes, political and military leaders will simultaneously work to ensure that Wagner's soldiers pose as little threat as possible. In this way, dividing them makes sense.
– We have always defended and will continue to defend the Russian people, says the new Wagner president in the video.
The question then is why did it suddenly appear now – in February 2024?
Karen Philippa Larsen again:
– There seemed to be rumors that he was supposed to leave. He jokes in the video that he was on a trip to Mars. He seems optimistic and in a good mood.
Did Prigozhin's “coup attempt” change Russia?
VG asks Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen at the Alexanteri Institute:
– It was definitely an interesting event. Perhaps Prigozhin thought he had more power than he did. Putin took revenge. The entire Wagner system has weakened since then. We also do not know whether Prigozhin had any support within the Moscow elite for his rebellion.
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