Russian Defense Minister Sergei Choigou has ordered “volunteers” to sign a contract with his administration. This initiative comes after months of tension between him and Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group involved in the fighting in Ukraine.
The move by the Russian Ministry of Defense looks like an attempt to bring the Wagner mercenary group and its restless boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to heel. It takes the form of an ultimatum: by July 1, all “volunteer detachments” or their fighters must have signed a contract with the Ministry, according to an order signed on Saturday June 10 by Sergei Choigou, the head of the armed forces.
The Ministry of Defense points to a question of “efficiency”, but also to the need to guarantee members of such units and their families “the same social protection and support” as those provided for military personnel. This includes the payment of 5 million rubles (56,000 euros) to the families of slain soldiers, a considerable sum recently increased by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Although the Wagner Group is not mentioned by name, its takeover seems to be the main objective of this initiative. The army has always referred to this unit, made up of mercenaries and prisoners recruited by businessman Prigozhin in exchange for a promise of pardon, as a “volunteer detachment”. While Wagner still has no legal existence, and private military companies are still theoretically forbidden in Russia, the Ministry insists on the need to give these formations “legal status”.