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Russian President Vladimir Putin to make Andrey Nikolaevich Troshev new Wagner Group chief

He was so drunk he had to be hospitalised. He was carrying $90,000 in cash, receipts for weapons and tactical maps of the fighting in Syria.

Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to make this man the new chief of the Wagner mercenary group that – just weeks ago – rose in open mutiny against the Kremlin.

And the allegation that Andrey Nikolaevich Troshev spilled the beans to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security forces days before the June uprising may have a considerable something to do with it.

Troshev is a former Russian artillery colonel. Despite being one of Wagner’s founding fathers, he was virtually unknown to the West. But he was awarded Russia’s highest accolade – Hero of the Russian Federation – after leading an assault that threw Islamic State out of the historically significant city of Palmyra.

Then, last month, Troshev – who goes by the radio call-sign “Sedoy (Grey Hair)” – was fired by Wagner’s exiled revolutionary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Documents apparently leaked by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to the Telegram social media network favoured by Russian forces suggest Troshev had informed Kremlin officials about the upcoming rebellion.

That loyalty, it appears, is paying dividends.

Especially as Putin is trying to twist the crisis to his advantage.

He wants to win back Wagner’s loyalty.

So he told Russian newspaper Kommersant that “rank-and-file soldiers of Wagner have fought honourably” and that “it’s a cause for regret that they were drawn into the mutiny”.

And he’s put forward one of their own – Troshev – as a potential replacement for missing Wagner Group chief Prigozhin.

“This was a significant concession, considering that on the day of Prigozhin’s rebellion, Putin described those involved in the mutiny as betrayers,” said international affairs analyst Jennifer Mathers.

Revolt among revolutionaries

Putin may have survived the putsch through an eleventh-hour collapse in support for Prigozhin’s revolt. But the power grab was one everybody but Putin had seen coming for over a year.

All the classic ingredients were there.

A successful, ambitious man. A private army operating outside the law. A struggle for prestige, power and resources.

Exactly what happened remains uncertain. But Prigozhin appears to have expected to spark a general uprising. And when this did not happen, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stepped in to offer asylum – and avert bloodshed on the streets of Moscow.

Where the fallen Wagner leader is right now is unknown.

His mercenaries are being reassembled inside Belarus. Russian military forces there are withdrawing.

But on July 6, Lukashenko claimed that Prigozhin had returned to Russia.

Many international analysts believe that the uprising was sparked by a move to force the mercenaries to sign formal military contracts and place themselves under the command of Prigozhin’s political enemies.

But Putin implied to Kommersant earlier this week that the mutiny collapsed because of tensions between Wagner’s senior fighters and their oligarch leader.

And Putin’s proposed fix is simple: replace the old one with a new one.

Prigozhin has not been seen in public since early July, and recent Russian news reports of a raid on his St Petersburg home have raised further questions surrounding his fate.

Now, Wagner troops appear to be supporting Putin’s proposal.

On July 14, Wagner mercenaries were shown on Belarusian state TV training soldiers at a military firing range near Minsk.

And two of its surviving top leaders have since released videos asserting they will “defend the Fatherland” and support the existing Kremlin power base.

Divide and conquer

Over the past year, Wagner has sought to replace its decimated force of mercenaries by recruiting “volunteers” from Russia’s highest security prisons.

They’re given a uniform, a gun – and a promise of a pardon if they fight well for the Fatherland.

They’re not the old force of disciplined veterans.

But they owe Wagner. A lot.

Putin says he offered 34 mercenary commanders a choice of futures at a meeting five days after the events of June 23. One was disbandment. Another was to join the regular army. Another was to retain their identity under a new commander.

That commander was Troshev.

“They could have all gathered in one place and continued to serve, and nothing would have changed for them,” Putin told Kommersant.

“They would be led by the same person who has been their real commander all along.

“Many people nodded when I said that.”

Prigozhin, says Putin, was not amused.

“Prigozhin, who was sitting in the front, said, ‘No, the guys don’t agree with this solution’.”

The June 29 meeting will likely have been a significant turning point for Prigozhin and Putin.

“Both the fact and the substance of this meeting with Putin suggest that Prigozhin still has some political power,” said Mathers.

“Recent revelations that a Russian general is concerned about the conduct of the war, as well as reports of suspensions and sackings among senior officers suspected of sympathising with Prigozhin, indicate that Putin may not be able to count on the continued loyalty of his army.”

Who is Andrey Nikolaevich Troshev?

The 2017 St Petersburg alcoholic binge scandal is just one clue to the character of this veteran of the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Russia’s assimilation of Chechnya in 1994.

He was born in Leningrad on April 5. Whether this was in 1962 or 1953 remains unclear.

He joined the Soviet army and graduated from the Leningrad Higher Artillery Command School. And he earned two Orders of the Red Star awards while serving as the commander of a self-propelled artillery battery in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Troshev remained a soldier after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He earned accolades for his service to the new Russian Federation. He secured two Order of Courage awards and a Medal of the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” of the Second Degree while fighting in the Second Chechen War.

After leaving the military, he commanded security units within President Putin’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. This included the Special Rapid Response Unit (SOBR) and Special Purposes Unit of the Militia (OMON).

But, in 2014, Troshev joined Prigozhin and former GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) officer Dmitry Utkin to assemble the new Wagner Group private army.

This force, operating under the guise of mercenaries, gave Putin “plausible deniability” when interfering in the internal affairs of nations such as Syria and Libya.

The European Union assess Troshev as having recently been the Wagner Group’s chief of staff for operations in Syria.

British intelligence in 2022 identified him as Wagner Group’s Chief Executive. He reportedly “supported the Syrian regime, was a member of a militia and repressed the civilian population in Syria”.

Most recently, he was reportedly actively leading Wagner’s operations against the Islamic State in the area of Deir ez-Zor, Syria.

“As such, he provides a crucial contribution to Bashar al-Assad’s war effort and therefore supports and benefits from the Syrian regime,” EU sanctions documents add.

Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel

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