Kremlin announces Putin met with Wagner Group head Prigozhin days after attempted 'coup,' offered further combat employment

Rusian President Vladimir Putin reportedly met with Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin just a few days after what was described as an attempted coup to overthrow top brass in the Russian militry. 

The 3-hour meeting took place on June 29, said Dmitry Peskov, according to the Wall Street Journal. This was after Prigozhin's troops had taken hold of Rostov and staged a march toward Moscow on June 25. His forces came within 200 miles of the Russian capital.

"The president had a meeting. He invited 25 people, all the unit commanders and the company management, including Prigozhin," Peskov said. He expanded on the nature of that meeting, saying that Putin and Prigozhin discussed "Wagner's role in Russia's military campaign in Ukraine and commented on the events of June 24."

Peskov said that Putin "listened to the explanation of the commanders and offered them options for further employment and further use in combat." He also gave his "assessment" of the Wagner Group's performance on the battlefield in Ukraine. Prigozhin and his troops took the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut earlier this year, and handed it over to the Russian military.

"The commanders themselves presented their version of what happened. They underscored that they are staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state and the commander-in-chief, and also said that they are ready to continue to fight for their homeland," Peskov said.

Proghozin was reportedly on his way to exile in neighboring Belarus, per a reported agreement between Putin and Prigozhin, but now it appears that he never went. 

Reports emerged on Saturday that Putin fired top General Valery Gerasimov as the conflict commander in Ukraine and replaced him with Colonel-General Mikhail Teplinsky on Saturday.

The Moscow Times reported that Gerasimov will remain the chief of the General Staff but "has nothing to do with resolving issues at the front," though the move has not been officially confirmed.

Teplinsky reportedly became the deputy commander of a grouping in Ukraine in April after taking command over the country's Airborne Forces last year. The report notes that according to Z-channels Putin began purging the military after last month's revolt by the Wagner Group.

According to the Daily Mail, Putin took issue with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after he brought Azov commanders home from Turkey, violating an agreement made at the end of the Siege of Mariupol. 

"No one informed us about this. According to the agreements, these ringleaders were to remain on the territory of Turkey until the end of the conflict," said Peskov.

Putin has changed the commander of his military four times since the beginning of the conflict. Before Geriasimov, who took command of the conflict last in December, Sergey Surovikin was in charge. 

Gennady Zhidko was fired in October, giving way to Surovikin, after the country was forced to surrender the Kharkov region. Before that, Gennady Zhidko was in command after Alexandr Dvornikov commanded for two months after being appointed to the position in April 2022. 

According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian president replaced at least 17 high-ranking commanders between February 2022 and May 2023.

Image: Title: putin and prigozhin
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