June 27, 2023

President Putin’s address to Defense leadership: The Russian state underwrote the Wagner mercenaries

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrades,

Perhaps you noticed or maybe heard that I just met with military personnel from the Defence Ministry, the National Guard, special services, the FSB and the Interior Ministry, and thanked them for making preparations to repel an armed rebellion.

However, you and your comrades had a special part to play in this. Special words of gratitude go to you.

I want us all to understand what happened and what could have happened if you hadn’t done what you did and hadn’t fulfilled your military duty and hadn’t shown loyalty to your oath and the Russian people.

As is always the case during such developments – the same thing happens every time and everywhere – armed rebellions are usually followed by total chaos and civil war. This is what you have prevented. That was your role. As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I would like to express my gratitude to you. I want to make clear what it was all about and what I am talking about now.

Regrettably, you had to work in difficult circumstances in order to avoid civilian casualties, because you had to work on busy motorways.

The fact that we have losses is even more regrettable. These are, of course, combat losses. There is no other way to put it. Our comrades died defending the Fatherland. It is not an overstatement or an exaggeration. I want to stress once again that chaos in the country would have been inevitable, and the enemy would have surely taken advantage of it.

The enemy is trying to do so anyway – I will get to that a little later – but nothing is coming out of it, and, I hope, nothing will come out of it, I am even sure of that. But it is absolutely clear that they would have taken advantage of it. No one knows what would have become of the country in the end, but all the achievements that have been made during the hostilities, many of them, anyway, would have been lost. And you prevented it.

Without any doubt – I have told the Defence Minister so – everything will be done to support the families of our fallen comrades.

As for this Wagner Group, you know, we have always treated these fighters and commanders with a lot of respect because they did demonstrate courage and heroism. Soldiers and officers from the Russian Army, as well as volunteers operated in combat with the same dedication, heroism and self-sacrifice. But those who served and worked for this company, Wagner, were respected in Russia.

At the same time, I would like to point out, and I want everyone to be aware of the fact that all of the funding the Wagner Group received came from the state. It got all its funding from us, from the Defence Ministry, from the state budget.

Between May 2022 and May 2023 alone, the Wagner Group received 86,262 million rubles from the state to pay military salaries and bonuses, including 70,384 million rubles for payroll and 15,877 million rubles for paying out bonuses. Insurance premiums totalled 110,179 million.

But while the state covered all of the Wagner Group’s funding needs, the company’s owner, Concord, received from the state, or should I say earned, 80 billion rubles through Voentorg as the army’s food and canteen provider. The state covered all its funding needs, while part of the group – I mean Concord – made 80 billion rubles, all at the same time. I do hope that no one stole anything in the process or, at least, did not steal a lot. It goes without saying that we will look into all of this.

And here is what I wanted to say when I was talking about combat action. We have combat pilots sitting here, who did a lot to ensure that we were effective in combat action like this.

I have just received the adjusted data: since June 4, when the so-called counteroffensive started, the adversary lost 259 tanks and 780 armoured vehicles. In the area of the city of Orekhov, which the adversary considers its principal attack direction, over the past seven days alone the enemy lost 280 units of military hardware, including 41 tanks and 102 armoured vehicles.

This is largely attributable to your efforts and those of your comrades-in-arms. And for that, please accept my gratitude too.

Of course, I have already instructed the Defence Minister: services of all those who took part in combat action will be duly recognised, I am talking about state decorations.

I have already told the Minister but allow me to repeat one more time: those of you who perform well in combat action should form, in the near future and in the long-term, the command core of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, including its aviation units, of course.

This is what I wanted to tell you. Once again, thank you for what you did for Russia, for the country and for our people.

Thank you.

Best of luck to you. Thank you.

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