The Russian Ministry of Defense has ordered all Russian volunteer formations to come under its control via a decree. However, military entrepreneur Prigozhin does not want to subject his mercenaries to official leadership.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has called on all Russian volunteer organizations to sign contracts with his ministry by July 1st. As announced by his deputy, Nikolai Pankov, this status would grant these organizations legal recognition and the same state benefits as regular units within the armed forces.
Obervers speculate that this move may have been prompted by private military company Wagner, owned by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. He is a sharp critic of Shoygu and has already declared that Wagner will not sign such contracts.
Prigozhin Accuses Shoygu of Incompetence
In a voice message released on his Telegram channel, Prigozhin stated that Defense Minister Shoygu could have military and staff authority over the ministry and its soldiers. However, he claimed that the minister had already been unable to lead his own troops successfully. Without the assistance of private forces, the ministry would remain unable to succeed in its objectives. Consequently, Wagner might not receive weapons and ammunition until the ministry needed other assistance.
Prigozhin emphasized, the ultimate mission was to follow President Vladimir Putin as Commander-in-Chief and pursue Russia's interests. Previously, he had blamed Shoygu and Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov for several defeats in Moscow's war of aggression against Ukraine.
Prigozhin said that his mercenaries agreed with Gerasimov’s deputy, Sergei Surkov, on combat operations. He described Surkov as wise, experienced, and possessing a high degree of efficiency, paving the way for success. So far, Moscow has no official response to Prigozhin's refusal. In Russia, Prigozhin is considered untouchable and a close confidante of Putin.
Integration Improves Military Opportunities and Efficiency
Deputy Pankov emphasized that integrating units into the ministry would improve their military opportunities and the effective employment of their fighters. They could then also be better equipped, he said. However, Russian soldiers often complain about inadequate equipment.