This is a power struggle. Definitely a power struggle
I’ve heard this issue of contracts mentioned in a couple of different places. And seen this written about as well. Curiosity has got this cat a-hunting!
Russian Ministry of Defence had given Prigozhin’s fighter until the end of the month, June/23, to sign contracts with them. Progozhin, who has been a very difficult and challenging person had to have understood this was being done to “pull the rug out” from under his authoritative footing. This explains why Prigozhin has such an axe to grind with the MoD.
I’ve come to consider this as a serious matter as it calls Putin’s leadership into question. And portrays Russia as an unstable international partner. It’s a situation that needs to be dealt with quickly and with lasting effectiveness.
This article was published June 16/23. So it is 8 days old and in my opinion it gets to the heart of the matter!
I’ll highlight the main points.
After months of infighting between Russian defense officials and the Wagner Group, the Deputy Defense Minister, Nikolai Pankov, announced on June 10, 2023, that “volunteer formations” would be required to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense before the end of the month. Although the statement did not name the Wagner Group specifically, Russian commentators suggested that the aim of the contracts was to bring the private military company (PMC) and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, under greater State control.
Prigozhin would not want to give up his power, glory and money making machine- He very clearly has an enormous ego.
Prigozhin responded with a furious statement, signaling his refusal to sign any contracts with the Defense Ministry. Prighozin claimed that the Wagner Group was already “organically” integrated into the overall Russian system..
It remains to be seen who will triumph in this latest battle between Prighozin and defense officials. If, however, the Defense Ministry succeeds in its attempt to regularize the Wagner Group’s activities, this will have a number of consequences from an international law perspective.
First, it means that the Wagner Group’s conduct in violation of international law will be attributable to Russia under the law of State responsibility. Second, it removes the ambiguity regarding Wagner fighters’ status under the law of armed conflict (LOAC), meaning that they will, in future, be entitled to combatant and prisoner of war status.
As matters stand, therefore, Russian law does not recognize the Wagner Group or its operations. They are effectively illegal under Russian law. If, in future, the group concludes contracts with the Defense Ministry, this would regularize the PMC’s position under domestic law. It would also have international law implications. From the date any such contract takes effect, the law of State responsibility would attribute some or all of the PMC’s conduct to Russia.
Sergei Shoigu announced that “Russian volunteer personnel must sign contracts directly with the Russian MoD by July 1.” The same report indicates that the Akhmat group of Chechen special forces complied with the Defense Ministry’s decree and that the new contracts “will grant Akhmat forces the same legal status, rights, and benefits” as official defense personnel. If that is correct, and assuming the same status would be afforded to members of the Wagner Group, it suggests that upon signing the contracts,
Wagner fighters would be integrated into Russia’s armed forces.
My understanding is that many of the Wagner fighters had already signed the contracts- But, not all of them. Which suggests Progzhin has persons more loyal to him than to the state of Russia and it’s legitimate concerns. Or they’re wanting to make higher pay? I don’t know which?
Nonetheless, it is worthy of note that the reports regarding the proposed new contractual arrangement refer to the Russian government’s desire to centralize control over operations involving volunteer formations. This intent is also evident in Prigozhin’s angry response to the proposal, in which he claimed that the Wagner Group’s effectiveness would be damaged by having to report to the Ministry of Defense.
It remains to be seen whether the Wagner Group will enter into any form of contractual relationship with Russia’s Ministry of Defense. While President Putin reportedly supports the Ministry’s efforts to centralize control over Russia’s operations in Ukraine, Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, remains vocal in his opposition to the proposal. Wagner’s future status is therefore likely to depend upon the outcome of the ongoing power struggles within the Kremlin.
I want to add this last bit of information Progozhin is walking back whatever he was attempting to do- What changed his mind? Unknown? However, he will continue to be a problem and my opinion stands that the contracts with MoD are likely the best option for Russia in this continuing military action