Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin Friday ordered Wagner Private Military Company fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to Russia, according to a Reuters report.
The Russian president’s order followed the death of the mercenary group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died after his private airplane crashed. President Putin firmly denied rumors he ordered Prigozhin’s plane downed.
The Kremlin labeled Western insinuations that Prigozhin’s death was orchestrated on its orders as an “absolute lie.”
Prigozhin’s demise has not been officially confirmed by Russia, which said it is waiting on test results before making any official statements.
The aviation authority of Russia disclosed Prigozhin was among the passengers on a private jet that crashed northwest of Moscow Wednesday evening.
This incident occurred precisely two months post Prigozhin’s unsuccessful mutiny against army chiefs.
Expressing condolences to the bereaved families, Putin referred to Prigozhin in the past tense, the report noted. He mentioned “preliminary information” suggesting Prigozhin and top Wagner associates were likely victims of the crash.
“Regarding the airplane crash, first of all I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of all those who died,” Putin said, according to a report from TASS. “This is always a tragedy,”
Along with acknowledging Prigozhin’s contributions, Putin pointed out some of his “serious mistakes.”
To further consolidate state control over private military groups, Putin introduced a mandatory oath for their members.
As per the decree available on the Kremlin website, anyone involved in military work or supporting Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine must now swear a formal oath of allegiance to Russia.
This oath, designed to bolster the spiritual and moral foundations of Russia’s defense, requires the signatories to strictly adhere to the commands of their superiors.
Without concrete evidence, some Western politicians and analysts have speculated Putin might have ordered Prigozhin’s assassination as retribution for his attempted mutiny on June 23–24 against the army’s leadership.
Prigozhin’s rebellion was perceived as the most significant challenge to Putin’s authority since he assumed power in 1999.
“There is now a great deal of speculation surrounding this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the plane’s passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“Of course, in the West, all this speculation is presented from a well-known angle.” He further emphasized the importance of relying on facts and mentioned that the actual details would emerge from ongoing investigations.
Russian authorities reportedly began an investigation into the crash, but the cause remains undetermined. The identities of the 10 recovered bodies are yet to be officially confirmed.
When questioned about the potential attendance of Putin at Prigozhin’s funeral, Peskov highlighted the president’s busy schedule and stated that no funeral dates have been set.
Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), opined that the funeral would be a significant event.
He suggested that if Putin chooses to overlook the funeral, it might indicate Prigozhin’s portrayal as a traitor.
On the other hand, Prigozhin’s supporters might utilize the occasion to praise him and criticize the Kremlin’s war strategies, potentially intensifying the Wagner group’s animosity towards the Kremlin.
British military intelligence has yet to confirm Prigozhin’s presence on the ill-fated flight but considers it “highly likely” he perished. The Pentagon’s initial assessment also leans towards Prigozhin’s death, according to Reuters.
Russia’s Baza news outlet, known for its credible sources within law enforcement, has proposed that the plane might have been sabotaged with one or two bombs.
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