Putin Met With Prigozhin and Wagner Leaders Days After Insurrection

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia held a prolonged assembly with Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and commanders of his Wagner non-public army firm simply days after they’d launched a mutiny that put the nation on the point of a civil battle, the Kremlin disclosed on Monday.

Mr. Putin had denounced the leaders of the June 23-24 riot as traitors, so the startling revelation that he performed host to them on June 29 means that for all his bluster, he noticed a continued use for the mercenary group and its boss. The assembly is the primary recognized contact between the 2 males for the reason that rebellion, which posed probably the most dramatic problem to Mr. Putin’s authority in his 23 years in energy.

Information of the assembly added to the thriller of what is going to grow to be of Mr. Prigozhin and his power after the riot. It stays unclear why a warlord together with his personal non-public military, who tried to depose the Russian army management by power, has been allowed to stay within the nation, apparently unhindered, allegedly even returning to his hometown, St. Petersburg, to select up his confiscated weapons.

Mr. Putin invited 35 folks to the three-hour assembly, together with Mr. Prigozhin and all of Wagner’s prime commanders, and gave his evaluation of the corporate’s efforts on the battlefield in Ukraine, in addition to its actions within the mutiny, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov mentioned.

The Wagner fighters additionally supplied their rationalization of what had transpired, in line with Mr. Peskov, who urged the gathering was an opportunity to clear the air and set a course going ahead. “Putin heard out the commanders and proposed additional employment choices and additional fight choices,” he mentioned.

The Wagner fighters pledged their loyalty to the Russian chief through the assembly, the Kremlin spokesman added.

“They emphasised that they’re staunch supporters and troopers of the pinnacle of state and commander in chief — and in addition mentioned they’re ready to struggle for the nation going ahead,” he mentioned.

The image of Mr. Prigozhin and his prime lieutenants sitting peacefully at a desk with the Russian chief — simply days after Mr. Putin had vowed to crush their riot — contrasted with the broadly held picture of Mr. Putin as a ruthless authoritarian, adept at squelching threats to his rule.

It appeared to mirror a calculation by the Kremlin to keep away from absolutely eradicating an skilled combating power with a well-liked following in the midst of a expensive struggle. The Russian president, some analysts say, might also view the riot as little greater than a factional feud that bought uncontrolled. Mr. Prigozhin has mentioned he got down to topple the Russian army management — to not problem Mr. Putin’s rule.

“I’d not assume that Prigozhin is again into Putin’s finest graces eternally and nothing has occurred. One thing has occurred. Conclusions have been drawn for now,” mentioned Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Heart. “However simply crushing them and crushing him at this level is for some motive disadvantageous, in comparison with maintaining him afloat.”

Andrei Soldatov, a Russian safety companies professional, mentioned Mr. Putin’s powerful speak about treachery had been aimed primarily on the Russian army, to forestall any commanders from siding with the mutiny. Afterward, he mentioned, the president and Mr. Prigozhin “simply made one other deal.”

“We don’t know the phrases,” Mr. Soldatov added. “However the understanding is that they know one another, know what to anticipate from one another, thus they will nonetheless cooperate or work collectively.”

However the revolt put Mr. Putin’s vulnerability on international show, and the admission that he chatted with Wagner leaders dangers making him look weaker nonetheless.

Tatiana Stanovaya, founding father of the R.Politik political consultancy, mentioned the Kremlin presumably determined to reveal the assembly to calm a Russian elite that is still confused about what transpired — about whether or not Mr. Prigozhin is a “traitor or our man.”

“It’s a sign to the elite that Prigozhin stays systemic,” Ms. Stanovaya mentioned. “Sure, he made a mistake, sure, this can be a very critical crime. However as a result of specifics of the state of affairs, which is actually very distinctive, Putin will give him the chance to outlive.”

The mutiny uncovered Mr. Putin’s incapability or unwillingness to cope with an influence battle that for months had raged within the open, with Mr. Prigozhin recurrently launching profanity-laced invective at Russia’s army management on Telegram. Ms. Stanovaya, who can also be a senior fellow on the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Heart, mentioned she suspected Mr. Putin felt at the least partly accountable for not higher managing the escalating feud.

“So for Putin, Prigozhin is in fact a traitor, however he’s his traitor,” Ms. Stanovaya mentioned. “That’s, an individual who made a mistake out of stupidity, relatively than out of malice.”

The Kremlin beforehand had been deflecting questions on Mr. Prigozhin’s standing and whereabouts.

On the day Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin met, Mr. Peskov advised reporters he didn’t know the place Mr. Prigozhin was. The next week, Mr. Peskov mentioned the Kremlin had neither the “potential nor the will” to trace his actions.

However on Friday, the French newspaper Libération reported that Mr. Putin had met with Mr. Prigozhin and his Wagner commanders on the Kremlin to “negotiate the destiny of his empire,” which embody a variety of enterprise ventures.

On Monday, Mr. Peskov confirmed that the assembly happened, however added, “The main points of it are unknown.”

Mr. Prigozhin’s forces have been vital to Russia’s struggle in opposition to Ukraine, however final month the federal government ordered Wagner troops combating there to affix the common army. Dealing with a serious lack of energy, Mr. Prigozhin railed loudly in opposition to the transfer, to no avail.

His fighters seized the southern Russian metropolis of Rostov-on-Don, and an vital Russian army headquarters there, and staged a drive on Moscow that stopped inside 125 miles of the capital.

Mr. Putin warned in a nationwide tackle in opposition to a descent into civil struggle, and mentioned the harshest punishment awaited those that had “consciously chosen the trail of betrayal.”

However the punishment didn’t come.

Hours later, the Kremlin introduced a deal, allegedly brokered by the Belarusian chief Aleksandr G. Lukashenko: Mr. Prigozhin would stand down, keep away from prosecution and depart for Belarus. Wagner fighters who had participated within the mutiny would additionally keep away from punishment; those that didn’t take part could be given the prospect to signal Russian army contracts.

Mr. Prigozhin and his males packed up and retreated.

The settlement outraged hard-line Russian commentators, who famous that the insurrectionists had shot down Russian plane, killing army personnel.

Within the days since, Mr. Prigozhin’s standing has been a thriller. He hasn’t made any public appearances. His firm has stopped posting responses to questions from the media. The person who stepped out of the shadows final 12 months to make a public title for himself has gone quiet, at the least quickly.

Maybe the largest shock of all is that on the planet of Mr. Putin, the place these inflicting political issues have recurrently ended up imprisoned or killed, Mr. Prigozhin isn’t solely nonetheless alive however seems to be shifting freely round Russia.

Mr. Lukashenko mentioned days after the mutiny that Mr. Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus, however it’s not clear if that was true. Final week the Belarusian chief mentioned Mr. Prigozhin was in Russia — which U.S. officers confirmed — and was a “free man.”

On Thursday, Mr. Prigozhin was noticed arriving in a BMW 7-series sedan on the St. Petersburg headquarters of the F.S.B., a successor to the Soviet-era Okay.G.B., the place he collected weapons that the Russian authorities had seized from his nation home through the mutiny, the unbiased information outlet Fontanka reported. Days earlier, Fontanka mentioned, one in all his drivers had arrived to gather billions of rubles, a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars} and a number of other gold bars that Russian authorities had seized in autos parked at St. Petersburg resorts related to him.

Mr. Lukashenko mentioned simply after the rebellion that Wagner fighters, like their chief, could be welcome in Belarus. Final week, his authorities mentioned none had come, however that that may change.

A distinguished Wagner commander, Anton Yelizarov, who goes by the nom de guerre Lotos, gave an interview to a Russian struggle blogger on Friday, from southern Russia, by which he mentioned all Wagner fighters had been launched on break till early August — and urged he was spending time together with his household by the ocean.

Within the interview, posted on Telegram, Mr. Yelizarov mentioned Wagner would stand apart in Ukraine in the interim and had plenty of work to do to organize its “exit” to Belarus.

“There’s no conflict with legislation enforcement businesses, the president assured us that,” Mr. Yelizarov mentioned. “As for society and regular folks, you possibly can see for your self: women are strolling round with patches that they coaxed off our guys, probably for kisses. Boys are sporting T-shirts and hats with our logos. Little children are taking part in struggle video games, with the Ukrainians because the Germans and Wagner PMC fighters because the Purple Military.”

He didn’t exclude the potential of the mercenary group changing into concerned once more in Ukraine. “Our armored practice is in reserve, and we stand prepared to come back to the help of our Motherland and our nation when the Russian folks name us,” he mentioned.