Wagner Group fighters believe that one of its former commanders now tasked with providing troops for Ukraine is a “traitor”, according to British defense officials.
Russian authorities released footage on Friday of Putin meeting the former Wagner chief-of-staff and retired colonel Andrey Troshev. The president said he will oversee and establish new volunteer fighting units to perform combat missions primarily in Ukraine.
There has been uncertainty over Wagner’s future following the death in a plane crash in August of its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin. This came two months after he challenged the Russian defense establishment on June 24 when he seized military facilities in Rostov-on-Don and his private military company (PMC) members marched on Moscow.
Wagner had been key to Russia’s efforts in the Donetsk city of Bakhmut and offers security to countries in Africa where the group gives the Kremlin access to valuable resources.
Wagner-affiliated sources said that Troshev had left the PMC after the rebellion and had been working for the Russian Ministry of Defense-affiliated Redut PMC.
British defense officials said on Saturday that Troshev was likely to have been involved in encouraging Wagner troops to sign defense ministry contracts, a move among the reasons that led to the mercenaries’ mutiny.
However, “many Wagner veterans likely consider him a traitor,” the British Ministry of Defense said.
It noted how Putin’s endorsement of Troshev and Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who has been shown touring Africa where Wagner has a big presence, showed that Russia would continue to use volunteer units and private military companies, and was “planning for the future of Wagner.” Newsweek has emailed the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.
British defense officials said on Thursday that hundreds of former Wagner fighters were in demand and had returned to Ukraine recently with PMCs or regular Russian forces.
Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Friday that Putin’s comments during his meeting with Troshev that he maintains relationships with his former comrades was a further suggestion that the Russian Ministry of Defense “seeks to leverage Troshev’s connections to Wagner.”
The think tank said that there were increasing reports that Wagner troops were operating alongside the internal security force Rosgvardia.
The ISW added that a Wagner commander is said to be negotiating for the mercenaries to join volunteer formations under Rosgvardia on terms more favorable to the PMC.
However, Putin’s backing of the Russian Ministry of Defense effort “does not portend a significant redeployment of Wagner personnel to Ukraine,” the think tank said.
“The piecemeal deployment of former Wagner personnel to any areas of the frontline is unlikely to generate any significant strategic or even localized effects on the battlefield,” the ISW added.