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Putin asks former Wagner commander to create 'volunteer units' for Ukraine war

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 29, 2023 1:40 PM 2 min read
Andrei Troshev, the former chief of staff of Russia's mercenary Wagner Group, during a meeting with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov on Sept. 28, 2023. (Photo by the Russian Presidential Office)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Andrei Troshev, the former chief of staff of the mercenary Wagner Group, to form 'volunteer units" for the war in Ukraine, according to a transcript of Putin's speech published by the Kremlin on Sept. 29.

"You yourself fought in such a unit for more than a year. You know what it is, how it's done, you know about the issues that need to be resolved in advance so that combat work goes in the best and most successful way," Putin told Troshev in a meeting.

On Sept. 28, Putin met with Troshev and Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Russia's Presidential Office reported, without specifying what position Troshev currently holds.

After the meeting, Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told the Russian state-controlled news outlet RIA Novosti that Troshev now works in the Russian Defense Ministry.

Troshev, known by his alias "Sedoi" (the one with grey hair), commanded Wagner troops in Syria and took part in Russia's wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Russian media reported in July that Troshev was likely to lead Wagner Group after the failed rebellion of former Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash in Russia's Tver Oblast on Aug. 23 under mysterious circumstances.

In late September, media reported the return of Wagner contractors to Ukraine's battlefields following their deployment to Belarus as part of the post-rebellion deal between Prigozhin and the Kremlin.

Ukraine's military spokesperson, Illia Yevlash, confirmed the reports on Sept. 27, saying that of roughly 8,000 Wagner fighters who were stationed in Belarus, some departed for Africa, and around 500 were returning to Ukraine's eastern front.

According to the latest intelligence update by the U.K. Defense Ministry, the exact status of the redeploying personnel is unclear, but the fighters, formerly associated with Wagner Group, have likely transferred to parts of the official Russian Ministry of Defense forces and other mercenary groups.

"Several reports suggest a concentration of Wagner veterans around Bakhmut: their experience is likely to be particularly in demand in this sector," the ministry wrote. "Many will be familiar with the current front line and local Ukrainian tactics, having fought over the same terrain last winter."

Wagner fighters were a crucial component in the Russian invasion forces. They were primarily responsible for capturing the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast in May after a protracted siege.

Prigozhin’s death latest in a series of unsolved murders in Putin’s Russia. What’s next?
The death of an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin is not something new in history. More than 20 critics and opponents of Putin have been murdered or died in suspicious circumstances since 2000. However, the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group and o…
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