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Putin ‘doesn’t think Wagner needs to be replaced’ after group launched coup

Vladimir Putin has decided there is no need for a fresh military draft in Russia to replace the Wagner soldiers who departed the Ukrainian battlefield after the group’s brief rebellion, according to a defence official quoted by Russian media on Monday (JKuly 3).

There is no danger of a reduction in combat preparedness in the medium- and long-term views, according to Andrey Kartapolov, the state duma’s defence committee chairman.

He said that during the uprising, the Wagner private military company (PMC) personnel were stationed in camps rather than leading the charge.

Kartapolov added that there are acceptable substitutes for their spots in the reserve.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner group’s boss, recently led his fighters in a confrontation with senior Russian military figures, embarrassing the Kremlin.

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He eventually decided against attacking Moscow and negotiated a deal with the Kremlin, accepting exile in Belarus’ neighbouring country.

Putin ordered a “partial” military mobilisation in September in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year, making it the first such mobilisation since World War II.

Tens of thousands of men sought safety overseas while hundreds of thousands were drafted.

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Meanwhile, Russia’s media watchdog blacklisted at least five media outlets affiliated with Prigozhin and blocked their websites in Russia.

The move came after Wagner fighters took control of a Russian military headquarters and advanced on Moscow in what appears to have been an attempted insurrection.

As of Saturday (July 1), websites of the RIA FAN news agency and four online news portals controlled by Prigozhin’s Patriot media holding company ‘People’s News’, ‘Neva News’, ‘Politics Today’ and ‘Economy Today’ — were listed on a register of blacklisted sites maintained by the communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor.

Unconfirmed reports in Russian news outlets on Friday claimed that Prigozhin himself had ordered a shutdown of St. Petersburg-based Patriot. Prigozhin has not directly confirmed or denied the reports.

Patriot, founded in 2019 to bring together Prigozhin’s media and internet assets, included the Internet Research Agency, the so-called “troll farm” linked to Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. elections.

Patriot director Yevgeny Zubarev said this week that the Internet Research Agency, which was tasked with conducting online influence operations to advance Russian interests, had operated under Prigozhin’s control since 2009 before being brought under the Patriot umbrella.

In the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, IRA employees regularly posed as Americans to offer financial help to U.S. protest movements tackling socially divisive topics, according to a 2017 investigation by Russian newspaper RBC.

The investigation, based on accounts from several IRA employees, identified more than 100 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts it said were used to contact US-based activists offering help with organizing protests and events, focusing on race relations and gun rights among other front-page issues.

Prigozhin admitted in November that he had interfered in the 2016 election.

Prigozhin’s media group encompassed dozens of media outlets, including RIA FAN, the news agency whose US subsidiary USA Really pilloried “mainstream media” and praised then-President Donald Trump in its mission statement.

Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country, a close and dependent ally of Moscow, could use Wagner’s experience and expertise, and announced that he had offered the fighters an “abandoned military unit” to set up camp.

Aliaksandr Azarau, leader of the anti-Lukashenko BYPOL guerrilla group of former military members, told the Associated Press by phone on Thursday that construction of a site for Wagner mercenaries was underway near Osipovichi.

Up to 8,000 fighters from Wagner private military force may be deployed in Belarus, a spokesman for Ukraine’s border force told Ukrainian media Saturday.

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