Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, says one day he plans to set up his own private military company in the style of the Wagner mercenary group.
In a post on Telegram, Kadyrov said on Sunday that the Wagner Group, which has been fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine, had achieved “impressive results” and private military companies were a necessity.
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“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,” said Kadyrov, who has led the Chechen Republic since 2007.
“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,” Kadyrov, 46, said. “I think it will all work out.”
Kadyrov and Prigozhin lead forces in Ukraine that for the most part operate independently of Russia’s military command. Both men are staunch allies of Putin, but they have also spoken out in public against Russia’s military leadership.
The rise of Wagner outside the traditional Russian military command structures has raised concerns among Western diplomats that such groups could one day pose a threat to stability in Russia.
The Wagner Group has played an increasingly prominent role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, spearheading a months-long assault on the eastern city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
Kadyrov – son of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in a 2004 bombing in Grozny – has formed a tacit alliance with Prigozhin. They have been amplifying each other’s criticism of Russia’s military brass and calling for a more vigorous prosecution of the war.
Prigozhin, who spent the final decade of the Soviet Union in prison for robbery and fraud, has been an associate of Putin’s for years.
His catering company swept up government contracts, earning him the nickname of “Putin’s Chef”, while he deployed Wagner mercenaries to fight alongside Russian servicemen in Syria and to conflicts across Africa to advance Russia’s geopolitical interests.
After years of denials, he last year admitted his links to Wagner and said he had interfered in US elections.
Mounting evidence suggests the Kremlin has moved to curb what it sees as Prigozhin’s excessive political clout, ordering him to halt his public criticism of the defence ministry while advising state media to stop mentioning him or Wagner by name.
Kadyrov said such groups were “both needed and necessary“.