Russian President Vladimir Putin may have met with Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin in an attempt to “calm” Russian troops following the paramilitary organization’s attempted rebellion last month, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin held a lengthy meeting with Prigozhin on June 29, just days after the Wagner Group boss led an attempted mutiny against Russian military leadership amid growing frustration over the stagnating invasion of Ukraine. News of the meeting has led to questions about the mutiny as well as the relationship between Putin and Prigozhin, who the Russian president accused of “treason” following the attempted rebellion.
On Twitter, Gerashchenko discussed why the Russian president may have met with Prigozhin after news of the meeting broke on Monday, suggesting it may have been an attempt to calm Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.
“It seems that the Kremlin, by making the information about the meeting public, is trying to calm down the Russian population, including the units currently on the frontlines,” Gerashchenko wrote. “It could be an attempt to demonstrate that the crisis is, indeed, over, and that the tsar is friendly and forgiving.”
He also wrote that the meeting could be a signal for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally to the Kremlin who helped broker a peace deal to bring an end to the rebellion while also requiring Putin to drop charges against Wagner mercenaries.
“We don’t know for sure what Lukashenko has been trying to get in exchange for handling Prigozhin apart from Belarus getting a very low price for buying Russian gas. Now that Putin and Prigozhin have publicly made up, Lukashenko’s mediation services might no longer be needed,” Gerashchenko added.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment via email.
Peskov did not reveal details of the meeting between the two, but said Putin “gave an assessment of the company’s actions at the front” during the war in Ukraine.
“The commanders themselves outlined their version of what happened, they emphasized that they were staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state [Putin] and also said that they were ready to continue fighting for the Motherland. That’s all we can say about this meeting,” Peskov added.
Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya previously told Newsweek the pair may have met to “finalize” the details of Lukashenko’s peace plan.
Prigozhin has said the mutiny was aimed at Russian military leadership, rather than Putin himself, over the way the Ministry of Defense has conducted the invasion of Ukraine. After more than a year of combat, tensions simmered over a lack of progress on the Russian side.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu drew Wagner ire last month after pushing for those troops to formally sign Russian military contracts. Weeks after the attempted mutiny, Shoigu remains in his position and Wagner Group forces have not signed the contracts and remain in nearby Belarus.