Yevgeny Prigozhin’s son wants to be new leader of Wagner Group amid infighting

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private Russian mercenary group Wagner who died in late August (via Reuters) (PMC WAGNER/)

Pavel Prigozhinthe 25-year-old son of Wagner’s former boss, Yevgeny Prigozhinis emerging as possible leader of the famous mercenary groupaccording to a report by the American think tank Institute for War Studies (ISW).

The promotion of the son of the late businessman and mercenary leader would go against Vladimir Putin’s support for Andrey Troshev, a former Wagner commander who is currently associated with the Ministry of Defense, and his alignment with the Kremlin has sparked debates within the Group’s ranks. Wagner.

Last week, Putin publicly expressed his support for Troshev and acknowledged talks about forming new volunteer units focused primarily on combat missions in Ukraine. However, this measure caused internal discord in the Wagner Group, which culminated in the appearance of Pavel Prigozhin as an alternative leader, as reported by the ISW based on what was disseminated by a well-known Telegram channel associated with the group.

The advertisement suggested that Pavel Prigozhin is negotiating with Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard) possible reinstatement of Wagner Group to combat operations in Ukraine. Significantly, he conveyed that Wagner fighters would not need to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, and that the group intends to maintain its autonomy, including its name, symbols, ideology, leadership structure and operating principles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Wagner mercenary group commander Andrei Troshev and Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in Moscow (via Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Wagner mercenary group commander Andrei Troshev and Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in Moscow (via Reuters) (SPUTNIK/)

Sources close to the matter, cited by ISW, point to a possible influence on Pavel Prigozhin by Mikhail Vatanin, head of the Wagner Security Service. This points out a possible schism within the Wagner Groupwith some members aligning with the Prigozhin-linked leadership as an alternative to Troshev’s alignment with the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry.

The ISW report highlights the uncertainty surrounding the future of the mercenary group. The main combat elements of the group are scattered across several countries, including Belarus, the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali. Since the disappearance of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group lacks a clear and unified leader.

This development comes after the negative reactions of certain elements of the Wagner Group to Putin’s support for Troshev. The ISW report suggests that these reactions indicate that one faction shows interest in rallying around Pavel Prigozhin as an alternative leader.

Negotiations on the future cooperation of the Wagner Group with the Russian government add another layer of ambiguity. The possible division within the group raises doubts about its effectiveness and military threatespecially if it is reestablished under the leadership of Pavel Prigozhin.

The situation is further complicated by reports suggesting that Rosgvardia boss Viktor Zolotov is contemplating integrating elements of the Wagner Group into Rosgvardia as a distinct unit. However, the details of how this branch of the Wagner Group could operate alongside Rosgvardia remain unclear.

The Kremlin’s stance on the relationship between Wagner elements and the Russian government adds to the puzzle. In particular, Rosgvardia is directly subordinate to the Russian Presidential Administration, so Putin’s public support for Troshev and the possible subordination of elements of Wagner to the Ministry of Defense are significant. As the Wagner Group grapples with internal divisions and external uncertainties, the geopolitical implications of its future trajectory remain uncertain.