The future fate and leadership of PMC Wagner has become clearer on Friday, following the Aug. 23 death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and much of his senior leadership when their private plane went down outside Moscow while en route to St. Petersburg. It is believed that either a bomb was detonated, or it was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile.
The lingering question since then has centered on who will take command of Wagner, and whether it will remain a private entity, or possibly be broken apart. Those questions appear to have been at least partially answered with Putin's Friday Kremlin meeting with Andrei Troshev, among the most senior ex-commanders of the Wagner mercenary group and former aide to Prigozhin.
"President Putin asked Mr Troshev to oversee volunteer fighter units in Ukraine," the Kremlin said, in the clearest indicator to date that Wagner fighters will be returning to the Ukraine battlefield in large numbers.
Importantly, the Kremlin also confirmed that Troshev now works for the defense ministry, according to spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and will coordinate reintegration of Wagner fighters with Russia's armed forces on a voluntary basis.
Putin has additionally told Troshev he could "volunteer units that can perform various combat tasks, above all, of course, in the zone of a special military operation" - referring to Ukraine.
"You know about the issues that need to be resolved in advance so that the combat work goes in the best and most successful way," Putin added.
There were indicators even before Prigozhin's death, but following the June mutiny, that Troshev would be given control of Wagner under defense ministry oversight. At the time, the following backgrounder was released by US media:
Sedoy is the call sign of Andrey Troshev, a retired Russian colonel and a founding member and Executive Director of the Wagner Group, according to sanctions documents published by the European Union and France.
European Union sanctions concerning the situation in Syria detail Troshev’s position as the chief of staff of the Wagner Group operations in Syria, which supported the Syrian regime.
Troshev was born in April 1953 in Leningrad, in the former Soviet Union, according to the EU sanctions from December 2021.
“Andrey Troshev is directly involved in the military operations of the Wagner Group in Syria. He was particularly involved in the area of Deir ez-Zor,” it added. “As such, he provides a crucial contribution to Bashar al-Assad’s war effort and therefore supports and benefits from the Syrian regime.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin was shown meeting one of the most senior former commanders of the Wagner mercenary group and discussing how best to use ‘volunteer units’ in the Ukraine war https://t.co/9RftwZkH5z pic.twitter.com/ih2EBr2N5V— Reuters (@Reuters) September 29, 2023
Earlier this week, CNN had cited Ukrainian military sources to say that Wagner fighters have been redeployed to the battlefield in Ukraine, but this time under the regular Russian military command.
Hundreds of Wagner fighters have reportedly already appeared in the east, according to the Ukrainian sources. The last time the Ukrainians had seen them in significant numbers was after Wagner units had handed control of Bakhmut in the east over to the Russian regular armed forces.