Russian President Vladimir Putin met with one of the Wagner mercenary group’s most senior ex-commanders, who the Kremlin claims now works for the defense ministry.
Andrei Troshev was a former adviser to late Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in an August aircraft crash.
His death occurred two months after Wagner soldiers marched briefly into Moscow.
According to the Kremlin, President Putin has requested Mr Troshev to head volunteer fighting forces in Ukraine.
In his address to Mr Troshev, the president stated that he may “volunteer units that can perform various combat tasks, especially, of course, in the zone of a special military operation,” referring to Ukraine.
“You know about the issues that need to be resolved in advance so that the combat work goes in the best and most successful way,” Mr Putin added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA news agency that Mr Troshev “now works in the defence ministry”.
The meeting comes as Mr Putin attempts to reassert his authority following Wagner’s mutiny in June.
In the space of just 24 hours, Prigozhin staged an insurrection, sending troops into the southern city of Rostov, then further on towards Moscow, before retreating. It was the biggest challenge to Mr Putin’s authority in two decades.
The president last month called on all employees of Wagner and other Russian private military contractors to take an oath of allegiance to the Russian state.
Natia Seskuria of Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank, told the BBC that the meeting and public praise from Mr Putin is an attempt to show “he is in charge of the situation and he controls Prigozhin’s inner circle”.
“The fact that the Kremlin’s spokesperson confirmed that Troshev works for the Russian Ministry of Defence demonstrates that we are in a post-Progozhin era where the MOD is taking a full control of the so-called special military operation in Ukraine,” she said.
The Kremlin “will still be relying on Wagner resources with greater caution”, she added.