Russian volunteer forces and those defending the country’s territory must now pledge allegiance to the Kremlin thanks to a new presidential decree signed by President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
The measure, which came into force immediately, obliges “voluntary military formations” and those involved in territorial defense to swear allegiance to the Russian Federation by taking the oath before the Russian flag.
Key Context: Although the decree does not name any specific group, its timing is noteworthy.
The decree comes as doubts are being raised about the future of the private military company Wagner. Russia confirmed that Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday, two months to the day he led his forces in a brief mutiny against Moscow’s military establishment.
The insurrection lasted less than 24 hours, but revealed the intensity of the discord between various factions fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Moscow.
Putin signed the loyalty decree just two days after the accident.
Who it affects: The new measure applies to members of “volunteer formations” as well as “other persons assisting in the performance of tasks assigned to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, other troops, formations and military agencies” .
Some employees of state companies and “people hired for the application of territorial defense measures” will also take the oath.
It is unclear whether this will affect Wagner’s soldiers or other forces fighting on Russia’s behalf, such as those aligned with the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk republics.
Although Wagner has a global presence, Putin has said that he has no legal right to exist in Russia, since private military companies are technically prohibited there. Despite that, he cultivated a close relationship with Prigozhin, and Wagner’s complicated legal status has not prevented him from operating across Africa or waging the war in Ukraine under the shadow of the Russian Defense Ministry.
3 hours ago
These are the other Wagner members who died in the crash of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane, according to Russia
Russian servicemen inspect a part of a crashed private plane near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia, on Thursday, August 24. Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
The remains of the 10 passengers from Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane that crashed on Wednesday have been identified, confirming the death of Wagner’s boss, Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Sunday.
The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency reported that, in addition to the three crew members on board the plane that crashed in the Tver region north of Moscow, the following people were:
What do we know about them?
CNN previously reported on Utkin’s role as Prigozhin’s trusted lieutenant since the inception of the Wagner group.
A report by a Russian investigative group led by exiled Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Dossier Center, revealed more details about the other passengers on board:
Valeriy Chekalov: He was one of the assistants to Wagner’s boss who had worked with him since the early 2000s, says the Dossier Center. He oversaw all of Prigozhin’s “civilian” projects abroad, including geological exploration, oil production and agriculture, as well as the company’s logistics.
In July, the US State Department imposed sanctions on Chekalov for acting on Prigozhin’s behalf, noting that he had “facilitated ammunition shipments to the Russian Federation.”
Evgeniy Makaryan: Joined Wagner in March 2016, the Dossier Center reported. He was part of the 4th Wagner Assault Detachment in Syria, which was attacked by US aircraft near Khasham in February 2018.
CNN previously reported that Russia acknowledged suffering heavy casualties in an ill-fated operation against US-backed forces in Syria.
At the time, Moscow insisted that the casualties were not Russian soldiers, stating that “the military of the Russian Federation did not participate in any way” in the confrontation. He did not say what the Russians were doing there, but the families of the victims say they were military contractors working for Wagner.
Nikolai Matusevich: While the Dossier Center said it was unable to find a Wagner official with a perfect match for the spelling listed by Russian officials (Nikolay Matuseev), it did find Matusevich, who has been with Wagner since January 2017 and was also involved in the fourth assault detachment in Syria.
Sergey Propustin – joined Wagner in March 2015 and fought in a company called Kirill Tikhonovich, which was one of the combat units of the Wagner group