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Putin orders Wagner fighters to sign oath of allegiance after Prigozhin's demise

Published Aug 25, 2023 06:33PM ET Updated Aug 26, 2023 03:30PM ET
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© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the crew of the Alyosha T-80 tank, which destroyed a Ukrainian armoured convoy on the Zaporizhzhia direction in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia August 24, 2023. Sputnik/Mi

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin has ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state after a deadly plane crash believed to have killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, the volatile chief of the mercenary group.

Putin signed the decree bringing in the change with immediate effect on Friday after the Kremlin said that Western suggestions that Prigozhin had been killed on its orders were an "absolute lie". The Kremlin declined to definitively confirm his death, citing the need to wait for test results.

Russia's aviation authority has said that Prigozhin was on board a private jet which crashed on Wednesday evening northwest of Moscow with no survivors exactly two months after he led a failed mutiny against army chiefs.

President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to the families of those killed in the crash on Thursday and spoke of Prigozhin in the past tense.

He cited "preliminary information" as indicating that Prigozhin and his top Wagner associates had all been killed and, while praising Prigozhin, said he had also made some "serious mistakes."

Putin's introduction of a mandatory oath for employees of Wagner and other private military contractors was a clear move to bring such groups under tighter state control.

The decree, published on the Kremlin website, obliges anyone carrying out work on behalf of the military or supporting what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine to swear a formal oath of allegiance to Russia.

Described in the decree as a step to forge the spiritual and moral foundations of the defence of Russia, the wording of the oath includes a line in which those who take it promise to strictly follow the orders of commanders and senior leaders.

Western politicians and commentators have suggested, without presenting evidence, that Putin ordered Prigozhin to be killed to punish him for launching the June 23-34 mutiny against the army's leadership which also represented the biggest challenge to Putin's own rule since he came to power in 1999.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that the accusation and many others like it were false.

"There is now a great deal of speculation surrounding this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the plane's passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the West, all this speculation is presented from a well-known angle," Peskov told reporters.

"All of this is an absolute lie, and here, when covering this issue, it is necessary to base yourself on facts. There are not many facts yet. They need to be established in the course of investigative actions," he said.

'WAIT FOR TEST RESULTS'

Russian investigators have opened a probe into what happened, but have not yet said what they suspect caused the plane to suddenly fall from the sky.

Nor have they officially confirmed the identities of the 10 bodies recovered from the wreckage.

Asked if the Kremlin had received official confirmation of Prigozhin's death, Peskov said on Friday: "If you listened carefully to the Russian president's statement, he said that all the necessary tests, including genetic tests, will now be carried out. The official results - as soon as they are ready to be published, will be published."

Peskov, who said Putin had not met Prigozhin recently, also said it was unclear how long the tests and investigative work would take.

It was therefore impossible to start talking about whether Putin would attend Prigozhin's funeral, Peskov said in answer to a question on the subject.

"There are no dates for the funeral yet, it is impossible to talk about it at all. The only thing I can say is that the president has a rather busy schedule at the moment."

Nigel Gould-Davies, a former British ambassador to Belarus who is now a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said the funeral would be significant.

"If Putin wishes to emphasise that Prigozhin died as a traitor, he will ignore it," said Gould-Davies.

"(While) Prigozhin's supporters may use it as an opportunity to eulogise him and his critique of the Kremlin's conduct of the war -- and could strengthen the hostility of a core of Wagner loyalists towards the Kremlin," he said.

British military intelligence said on Friday there was not yet definitive proof that Prigozhin had been onboard but that it was "highly likely" he was dead.

The Pentagon has said its own initial assessment is that Prigozhin was killed.

Russia's Baza news outlet, which has good sources among law enforcement agencies, has reported that investigators are focusing on a theory that one or two bombs may have been planted on board the plane.

Asked about the future of the Wagner Group, which has a series of lucrative contracts across Africa and a contingent in Belarus training the army there but now appears leaderless, Kremlin spokesman Peskov was concise.

"I can't tell you anything now, I don't know," he said.

Putin orders Wagner fighters to sign oath of allegiance after Prigozhin's demise
 

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Comments (7)
Atlantic Coast Money
Atlantic Coast Money Aug 26, 2023 10:36PM ET
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Polish president died in plane over Russia in 2010. Sick sad stuff.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Aug 26, 2023 10:36PM ET
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Pilot error: Both the Russian and Polish official investigations found no technical faults with the aircraft, and concluded that the crew failed to conduct the approach in a safe manner in the given weather conditions.
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Aug 26, 2023 3:58PM ET
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So first I kill your boss and then I demand your loyalty…..Al Capone could not do it better
Don Getty
Don Getty Aug 26, 2023 3:24PM ET
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putinski - give me your loyalty but don't ever expect it - or expect to be paid or supplied
First Last
First Last Aug 26, 2023 3:24PM ET
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Can't tell if you're talking about Putin or Trump!  ;-)
Don Getty
Don Getty Aug 26, 2023 3:24PM ET
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First Last  wagner prison troops or trump lawyers - not sure which group wins the gold scuzzy award
First Last
First Last Aug 26, 2023 3:24PM ET
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Don Getty   Wagner prison recruits didn't have much of a choice: rot in an unjust and brutal Russian prison system or participate in an unjust & brutal invasion. Trump lawyers did have more & better choices.
First Last
First Last Aug 26, 2023 3:24PM ET
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Wagner recruits didn't take oath to not commit war crimes.  Rather, they are shot if they don't commit them.  Trump's lawyers swore oath to be upright, obey law, & support the US Constitution.
First Last
First Last Aug 26, 2023 2:49PM ET
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Putin didn't keep his promises to Wagner.  No reason for Wagner members to honor the oath of allegiance if they do sign it, which is signed under duress, anyway.  And most of those Wagner members are criminals anyway; why expect honor from them?
First Last
First Last Aug 26, 2023 2:49PM ET
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The Russia Volunteer Corps is offering Wagner members who had "not committed war crimes" to "join our ranks".  That's higher standards than the Russian military.
Patron Silver
Patron Silver Aug 26, 2023 2:20PM ET
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yet the trumpers still back this MF. don't let it happen here
Otis Grant
Otis Grant Aug 26, 2023 8:47AM ET
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It's time for the Russian people to remember who they are and stand up once again for the inevitable power of light over darkness and remove the beast from the Kremlin
Otis Grant
Otis Grant Aug 26, 2023 6:53AM ET
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Hopefully Wagner can finish the mutiny and take putins head
 
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