| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Prigozhin says Wagner will not sign any contract with Russian defence minister

The most powerful mercenary in Russia made it clear on Sunday that his Wagner troops would not sign any agreements with Sergei Shoigu, publicly rejecting any effort on the part of the defense minister to subjugate his combat group.

The founder of the Wagner organization, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has frequently criticized President Vladimir Putin’s top military officials for what he views as betrayal in failing to conduct the war in Ukraine effectively.

Neither Shoigu nor Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov have commented in public on the insults from Prigozhin, whose forces in May took the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut after a battle in which tens of thousands perished.

The defence ministry on Saturday said Shoigu had ordered all “volunteer detachments” to sign contracts with his ministry by the end of the month, a step it said would increase the effectiveness of the Russian army.

Though the ministry did not mention Wagner in its public statement, the Russian media reported that it was an attempt by Shoigu to bring the mercenaries to heel.

“Wagner will not sign any contracts with Shoigu,” Prigozhin said in response to a request for comment on the matter. The order, he said, did not apply to Wagner.

The defence ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries gained renown for what the United States said was destabilising countries across Africa, plundering natural resources and even meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He says the United States has destabilised so many countries across the world that Washington has no moral authority to lecture anyone.


Prigozhin said Wagner was completely subordinate to the interests of Russia but that its highly efficient command structure would be damaged by reporting to Shoigu.

“Shoigu cannot properly manage military formations,” Prigozhin said, adding that Wagner coordinated its actions in Ukraine with General Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media.

The defence ministry said that in the interests of increasing the effectiveness of “volunteer detachments”, all such units – or their men – would have to sign a contract with the defence ministry by July 1.

It did not mention Wagner by name but it routinely refers to Wagner as “volunteer assault detachments”.

“This will give the volunteer formations the necessary legal status, create unified approaches to the organisation of comprehensive provision and fulfilment of their tasks,” the ministry said.

“These measures will increase the combat capabilities and effectiveness of the armed forces and their volunteer detachments,” Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov said.

Prigozhin said the ministry might use the failure to comply with the order as a reason to deprive Wagner of supplies.

“What could happen after this order is that they will not give us weapons and ammunition. We will figure it out, as they say,” Prigozhin said.

“But when the thunder breaks, they will come running and bring weapons and ammunition with a request to help.”

  • Reuters