Just five days after staging a short-lived rebellion, mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin‘s commanders met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and pledged loyalty to the government, a senior government spokesman said Monday, the latest twist in a baffling episode that has raised questions about the power and influence both men wield.
The three-hour meeting took place June 29 and involved not only Prigozhin but commanders from his Wagner Group military contractor, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin gave an assessment of Wagner’s actions on the battlefield in Ukraine — where the mercenaries have fought alongside Russian troops — and of the revolt itself.
“The commanders themselves presented their version of what happened. They underscored that they are staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state and the commander-in-chief, and also said that they are ready to continue to fight for their homeland,” Peskov said.
The confirmation that Putin met face-to-face with Prigozhin, who led troops on a march to Moscow last month to demand a military leadership change, was extraordinary. Though the Russian leader branded Prigozhin a traitor as the revolt unfolded and vowed harsh punishment, the criminal case against the mercenary chief on rebellion charges was later dropped.