Wagney Group soldiers have been ordered to sign an oath of allegiance after their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly died.
Vladimir Putin’s decree was published on the Kremlin website and described as a way to ‘forge the spiritual and moral foundations of the defence of Russia’.
The oath includes a line where those making it promise to strictly follow the orders of commanders and senior leaders.
Prigozhin was reported dead after a Russian plane crash on Wednesday, August 23.
For weeks, security experts had been referring to the Wagner boss as a ‘dead man walking’ after his short-lived mutiny in June.
There has been huge speculation about what happened, but details of the plane crash in Russia still remain scarce – though we know the flight was heading to Moscow from St. Petersburg.
Vladimir Putin appeared to confirm the warlord was killed in the incident, paying tribute to him in a televised speech from the Kremlin.
The aircraft showed no sign of a problem until a precipitous drop in its final 30 seconds, according to flight-tracking data.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov addressed the rumours that Putin was behind the death.
He said: ‘There is now a great deal of speculation surrounding this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the plane’s passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the West, all this speculation is presented from a well-known angle.
‘All of this is an absolute lie, and here, when covering this issue, it is necessary to base yourself on facts. There are not many facts yet. They need to be established in the course of investigative actions.’
Russian authorities have opened an investigation into what happened. They have not yet said what they suspect caused the plane to suddenly plummet.
The 10 bodies recovered from the wreckage have also not been formally identified.
The country’s aviation authority said passengers on board the Embraer aircraft were Prigozhin, Sergey Propustin, Evgeniy Makaryan, Aleksandr Totmin, Valeriy Chekalov, Nikolay Matuseev and Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Dmitry Utkin, the Wagner Group’s co-founder and Prigozhin’s ‘right-hand man’, was also thought to be among those killed.
The three crew members were commander Aleksei Levshin, co-pilot Rustam Karimov and Kristina.
British military intelligence said on Friday there was not yet definitive proof that Prigozhin had been onboard but that it was ‘highly likely’ he was dead.
Putin has not said whether he will attend Prigozhin’s funeral but Peskov said: ‘The only thing I can say is that the president has a rather busy schedule at the moment.’
A former British ambassador to Belarus, Nigel Gould-Davies, said Putin will ‘ignore’ the funeral if he wants to ’emphasise that Prigozhin died as a traitor’.
Mr Gould-Davies believes it will be a significant event either way, with Prigozhin’s supporters potentially using it to ‘eulogise him and his critique of the Kremlin’s conduct of the war’.
This could strengthen the ‘hostility of a core of Wagner loyalists towards the Kremlin’, he added.
Since Prigozhin’s death, hundreds of Wagner Group graves have been completely bulldozed to the ground without much explanation.
Photos and video clips show crosses and wreaths piled up ‘like rubbish’ and newly levelled graves at a cemetery in the Russian village of Nikolayevka, in the Samara Oblast
Local media reports that the section of the cemetery where Wagner fighters were buried will be paved with concrete.
The Samara Oblast authorities have not yet issued any official statement.
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