Ramzan Kadyrov, President Vladimir Putin’s ally who rules Chechnya, said he plans to one day set up his own private military company in the style of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary group.
The rise of Wagner and other mercenary forces outside of traditional Russian military command structures has raised concerns among Western diplomats that such groups could one day pose a threat to stability in Russia.
In a Telegram message, Kadyrov said Wagner, who is fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine, had achieved “impressive results” and that private military companies were a necessity.
“We can confidently say that Wagner has proven himself in military terms and has drawn a line in discussions about whether or not such private military companies are needed,” said Kadyrov, who has led the Chechen Republic since 2007.
“When my state service is over, I seriously plan to compete with our dear brother Yevgeny Prigozhin and create a private military company. I think everything will be fine,” said Kadyrov, 46.
Kadyrov and Prigozhin both lead forces in Ukraine largely independently of Russian military command and are staunch allies of Putin, but they have also spoken out in public against military leaders.
The Wagner Group played an increasingly important role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, leading a months-long assault on the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
Kadyrov, the son of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov who was assassinated in a 2004 bombing in Grozny, has formed an unspoken alliance with Prigozhin, amplifying the other’s criticism of senior Russian military officers and calling for more vigorous prosecution of the conflict.
Prigozhin, who spent the last decade of the Soviet Union in prison for theft and fraud, was for years an associate of Putin.
His catering group won government contracts, earning him the nickname ‘Putin’s boss’, as he deployed Wagner mercenaries to fight alongside Russian military personnel in Syria and in conflicts across Africa to advance Russia’s geopolitical interests.
After years of denials, he admitted his ties to Wagner last year and said he interfered in the US election.
Mounting evidence suggests the Kremlin has taken steps to curb what it sees as Prigozhin’s excessive political influence, ordering him to end his public criticism of the Defense Ministry while advising the media of State to stop mentioning him or naming Wagner by name.
Kadyrov said such groups were “both necessary and necessary”. (Writing by Caleb Davis; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and David Holmes)
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