Putin ally and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov praises Wagner Group, says he’ll create his own mercenary unit
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and vocal proponent of the invasion of Ukraine, praised the mercenary Wagner Group on Sunday and said he wants to create his own private military force.
The Wagner Group was founded in 2014 by Yevgeny Prigozhin, another close associate of the Russian president who has been referred to as “Putin’s chef” because his restaurants and catering companies have scored countless government contracts.
Before deploying in Ukraine at the outset of Putin’s invasion last year, the Wagner Group was active across the Middle East, Africa, and even Venezuela.
“We can say confidently that Wagner has shown its mettle in military terms and drawn a line under discussions about whether or not such private military companies are needed,” Kadyrov, who has led Chechnya since 2007, wrote in a post on the social media app Telegram Sunday.
“When my service to the state is completed, I seriously plan to compete with our dear brother Yevgeny Prigozhin and create a private military company. I think it will all work out.”
WAGNER CHIEF SAYS HE’S TURNING RUSSIAN CONVICT FIGHTERS DESTINED FOR UKRAINE INTO ‘CANNIBALS’
About 50,000 Wagner forces are active in Ukraine. A large majority of them are convicted criminals who were freed from prison to join Putin’s war, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said last month.
The Russian Defense Ministry has long denied any connection to the Wagner Group, and U.S. intelligence suggests that there is a growing rift between top Russian military officials and Prigozhin, Kirby added.
The Treasury Department designated the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization last month, saying that “Putin has resorted to relying on the Wagner Group to continue his war of choice.”
“Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali,” the Treasury Department said on Jan. 26.
Reuters contributed to this report.