Updated Jun 27, 2023, 1:55pm EDT

Putin admits Wagner was fully funded by Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a televised address in Moscow, Russia, June 26, 2023, in this still image taken from video. Kremlin.ru/Handout via REUTERS
Kremlin.ru/Handout via REUTERS

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Russian president Vladimir Putin admitted Tuesday that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group — which orchestrated a short-lived rebellion against the Russian military — was “entirely” state-funded.

In a televised address, Putin said that the mercenary group, whose forces have fought in Ukraine, was given 86 billion rubles (approx. $1 billion) for its services between May 2022 and May 2023. The funding was allocated for in Russia’s annual budget, Putin said.

Many Russia watchers have long suspected that Wagner was fully financed by the state.

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Putin said he also gave another 80 billion rubles to a catering company owned by Prigozhin who is known by the moniker “Putin’s Chef.”

Wagner has carried out mercenary activities around the world, including in several African countries. In the Central African Republic, Wagner has been accused of executing civilians.

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  • The Wagner Group may have had some level of autonomy, but was always under orders from the Kremlin, the FT’s Christopher Miller notes, given its dependence on the government for arms and funds.
  • Prigozhin’s coup failed because most coups fail and are contingent on tiny details, University College London professor Brian Klaas notes in his newsletter. Since most who plot to overthrow the government aren’t usually announcing their intentions, it can be nearly impossible to plan ahead, and dictators usually coup-proof their regimes.
  • Post-coup attempt, expect to see people shuffled out of Putin’s inner circle as he looks to hold onto power. The Council on Foreign Relations notes that it’s unlikely Putin will blame himself for Prigozhin’s rebellion, and instead point fingers at others within the Kremlin for allowing the situation to spiral.
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A previous version of this story misstated the amount of rubles Prigozhin was paid by the Kremlin.