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Putin says Prigozhin refused to cede command of Wagner

Russia hails 'record' win for Putin in vote with no opposition
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin refused to let his fighters serve under someone else’s command, which could have settled the fate of the group.

Three weeks after Prigozhin launched a short-lived rebellion against Russia’s top military brass, the future and whereabouts of Wagner members remain uncertain.

The Kremlin had confirmed but gave few details about a meeting between Putin, Prigozhin and other Wagner commanders on June 29, five days after the mutiny.

In an interview to Kommersant published Thursday evening, Putin said he had offered a way forward for Wagner fighters.

“(The fighters) could all gather in one place and continue to serve,” Putin told Kommersant.

They would come under the authority of a commander nicknamed “Sedoy”, according to the daily newspaper.

“Nothing would have changed for them, they would have been led by the same person who was their real commander all this time,” Putin was cited as saying.

The Russian leader said that “many nodded” but that Prigozhin ultimately refused the offer.

Wagner had operated in the shadows for years.

It came into the spotlight during the military operation in Ukraine, despite the fact that private military companies are illegal in Russia.

“The (Wagner) group is here, but it does not exist legally!” Putin told Kommersant.

“There is a separate question related to their real legalisation. It’s a question that must be discussed in the Duma and within the government,” Putin said, referring to the lower chamber of Parliament.

Observers say the mutiny was the biggest challenge to Vladimir Putin’s authority since he came to power in end 1999.

On June 23 and 24, thousands of mercenaries took up weapons and marched from southern Russia towards Moscow with the aim of toppling the country’s military leaders.

The mutiny ended with a deal, mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, under which Prigozhin was expected to move to neighbouring Belarus with some of his men.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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