Two days after the Wagner rebellion, which was quickly put down, questions arose about the future role of the Russian military group in the war raging in Ukraine 16 months ago, and the extent to which Moscow relied on it during the coming stages of the conflict.
A report by The Guardian newspaper revealed that the group continued some of its operations normally on Monday, with the return of fighters to their bases and the opening of recruitment centers in a number of Russian cities.
The Guardian quoted an informed source, who didn’t mention his name, as saying that some of Wagner’s forces have returned to their bases in the areas controlled by Russia in eastern Ukraine, which is consistent with what Prigozhin announced on Saturday.
“They’re recuperating, eating and repairing their equipment after the military mission… They don’t seem to know what will happen to them either, but they are still fully armed,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Representatives at five Wagner recruiting centers across Russia, including Moscow, Samara and Novosibirsk, told the Guardian that the group’s offices were open for business as usual.
In Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk, advertising posters have once again been hung at the entrance to a Wagner recruiting center, after they were removed during Prigozhin’s rebellion.
A Wagner representative from Samara told the Guardian by phone that everything is as usual… The work continues”.
The representative stressed that the potential fighters would sign their contracts with Wagner and not the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov moved to reassure Moscow’s allies in Africa that the thousands of Wagner fighters deployed on the continent wouldn’t be withdrawn.
The fact that Wagner wasn’t resolved immediately, after an unprecedented day in which its fighters marched into Moscow and fired on Russian military helicopters, seems to indicate that the Kremlin has yet to make a decision on the group’s future.
“Everything points to the fact that they don’t know what to do after all of Prigozhin’s operations,” said Denis Korotkov, a Russian journalist with extensive knowledge of the Wagner group.
Korotkov added, “Over the years, Prigozhin built up Wagner’s enormous power, which was active on several continents, which makes it difficult to dismantle it in one day”.