Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to manifest concern over potential threats that the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may pose during an impromptu two-day extension of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to St. Petersburg. BBC’s Russian Service reported on July 25 that Putin told Lukashenko at the beginning of their July 23 meeting that Putin was ready to adjust his schedule to prolong Lukashenko’s visit and “discuss important topics in more detail.” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reported on July 25 that Putin and Lukashenko intended to “’synchronize watches’ and exchange views” but not sign any agreements during their prolonged meeting. Peskov also reported that Putin and Lukashenko discussed the Wagner Group, the Union State, and external threats on the borders of Russia and Belarus. Putin’s decision to prolong his meeting with Lukashenko likely shows Putin’s continued concerns about Wagner, which it appears that Lukashenko did not allay.
Lukashenko likely seeks to leverage his power over the Wagner Group to gain concessions from Putin. A Russian insider source claimed that the Wagner Group was the most important topic during the Putin-Lukashenko meeting, and that Lukashenko sought more economic assistance to Belarus through Union State programs. The insider source also claimed that Putin wanted Belarus to be more involved in the war in Ukraine and rejected Lukashenko’s compromise offer to have Belarusian forces conduct a show of force on Belarus’ border with Ukraine. Lukashenko was likely trying to leverage Putin’s concern over the Wagner Group throughout the entire visit to Russia to gain favorable conditions in Belarusian-Russian relations while deflecting Putin’s demands for closer integration into the Union State and support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russian leadership is attempting to mitigate the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure by creating formalized but decentralized military “enterprises” on the basis of federal subjects (regions). The Russian State Duma adopted the second and third readings of amendments to the federal law regulating the circulation of weapons in constituent entities of the Russian Federation on July 25 that will allow heads of Russian federal subjects to create specialized state unitary enterprises. Russian opposition media noted that certain intricacies in the amendments allow regional heads to create regionally based militarized state enterprises that are analogous to private military companies (PMCs) during a period of mobilization under martial law. The amendments notably require regional and local budgets to finance the special enterprises, which will be equipped with small arms by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and will assist the Russian State Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and other military authorities in ensuring public order and border security. The amendments would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to create the enterprises on a temporary basis and later abolish them, after which these enterprises would have to transfer all small arms and other weapons back to the Russian MoD within a month.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to manifest concern over potential threats that the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may pose during an impromptu two-day extension of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to St. Petersburg. Lukashenko likely seeks to leverage his power over the Wagner Group to gain concessions from Putin.
- Russian leadership is attempting to mitigate the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure by creating formalized but decentralized military “enterprises” on the basis of federal subjects (regions).
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced on July 25.
- Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed drone strikes on rear areas of Ukraine overnight on July 24-25.
- The Angry Patriots Club continues efforts to cast former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin (Strelkov) as an opposition figure and may be attempting to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin through rhetoric about the illegality of Girkin’s arrest.
- Putin and the Kremlin reportedly failed to respond promptly to the Wagner Group’s June 24 rebellion, leaving local Russian officials to make decisions concerning the group’s drive on Moscow.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Svatove, Kreminna, the Bakhmut area, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, and the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area and made claimed advances near Svatove, Kreminna, and Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations near Kreminna, the Bakhmut area, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, and western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in the Bakhmut area, in some areas along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, and west of Orikhiv.
- US intelligence officials warned on July 25 that Russia’s drone supply will dramatically increase as a result of continued bilateral Russo-Iranian cooperation.
- Russian officials continue efforts to deconflict legal discrepancies as part of the incorporation of occupied territories.