Yevgeny Prigozhin, co-founder of the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), has announced that the Russian government should provide his fighters with welfare benefits and social guarantees without signing contracts with the Ministry of Defense (MoD), according to a statement published by Prigozhin’s press service on Telegram.
On June 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that mercenaries and volunteers must sign contracts with Russia’s Ministry of Defense in order to obtain legal status and be eligible for welfare benefits from the state. Prigozhin, however, completely ruled out the possibility of the PMC signing any agreements with the MoD:
“The state must participate in social guarantees for veterans, for fighters who have completed their tasks. So when we began taking part in this war, no one said that we were obliged to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. None of the fighters of the Wagner PMC are ready to go back to the path of shame. And that is why no one will sign any contracts.
As for social guarantees, I think the State Duma and the president will find a compromise solution, in which both social guarantees and combatant documents will be provided. [...] I have 20 thousand dead [soldiers], should they also sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense?”
On June 10, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered all “volunteer units” fighting in Ukraine to sign contracts with the MoD by July 1. The order was issued amidst a conflict between the ministry and Prigozhin, who regularly insults and accuses the country's military leadership of professional misconduct. In the days that followed, the Defense Ministry announced the signing of several contracts with various formations, such as the Chechen Akhmat division and seven other volunteer units.
Prigozhin responded negatively, stressing that the Wagner PMC is “organically integrated into the overall [military command] system” and “is completely subordinate to the interests of the Russian Federation and the Commander-in-Chief [Vladimir Putin].”
On June 13, Putin, at a meeting with Russia’s so-called “war correspondents,” expressed his support for the endeavor, stressing that the “volunteers” require a legal status so that they can receive social guarantees. “The first thing is to sign contracts with the Defense Ministry. The second is to make changes in the laws. Both will be done,” Putin said.