Kremlin Confirms Putin's Meeting with Exiled Rebel Prigozhin

Published: 11 July 2023

Putin in Dagestan

Although Russian authorities launched an investigation against the mercenary Wagner group's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and later arranged his exile to Belarus, the Kremlin stated that President Putin met with him and his commanders in Moscow. (Photo:, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

A week after launching an armed rebellion, exchanging harsh words with Moscow, and being exiled to another country, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, along with 34 of his commanders, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to present his reasons.

The Kremlin issued a brief statement on Telegram confirming that Prigozhin had visited the palace and that the "meeting lasted for three hours."

"The President [Putin] assessed Wagner's conduct and listened to their explanations," the statement said.

After frequently complaining about the leadership of the Russian Army, Prigozhin formally turned against the Kremlin on June 23, accusing the Russian military of targeting his forces and mishandling the war in Ukraine in general. This move represented the biggest challenge to Putin's decades-long rule.

Prigozhin's mercenaries marched toward Moscow for a whole day before he called off his rebellion after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko negotiated peace between him and Putin, offering Prigozhin asylum. Prigozhin's private plane safely arrived in the Belarusian capital on June 27, just two days before the meeting in Moscow.

Prigozhin's surprising anti-Kremlin stance prompted Moscow to seek his arrest. The Federal Security Service (FSB) launched a criminal investigation against him, charging him with armed mutiny against the state—a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. However, the charges were later dropped.

On the same day Prigozhin left Russia, Putin strongly criticized him, citing Russia's massive investments in Wagner. Addressing the military personnel of Russia's Defense Ministry on June 27, Putin stressed that "from May 2022 to May 2023, the state provided the Wagner group with 86.26 billion rubles (US$955.49 million) in financial assistance and incentive payments," as well as "110.17 billion rubles ($1.22 billion) in insurance payments."

Putin claimed that during the same period, Prigozhin's Concord catering company earned 80 billion rubles ($886.34 million) from the state for supplying food and providing catering services to the Russian army, even though the service was completely taken over by the state.

"I hope that as a result of that arrangement [with Concord], no one stole anything or, at the very least, stole less, but we will, of course, deal with that," said Putin, who nevertheless paid respect to Wagner mercenaries, stating that they "indeed showed courage and heroism" in the war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin did not mention whether the issue of money came up during Putin's meeting with Prigozhin and his officers two days after the speech.