Russian President Vladimir Putin enters the St. George Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

Mikhail Klimentyev | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Friday requiring all mercenaries to pledge allegiance to Russia, a revelation that comes shortly after the reported death of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The fate of the Wagner Group – a private Russian military company with ties to conflicts in Africa, Syria and Ukraine – has been uncertain since a short-lived revolt in June.

Prigozhin marched on Moscow with his Wagner mercenaries after months of frustration at the lack of battlefield successes of the Russians in Ukraine. The uprising between Putin and his former private chef Prigozhin was quietly broken off and the former Kremlin confidante was banished to Belarus.

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On Thursday, Putin made brief, impersonal remarks to the families involved in the plane crash that is believed to have killed Prigozhin and senior Wagner officers. The doomed flight from Moscow to St Petersburg has been described as Putin’s “public execution” of Prigozhin.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of military company Wagner Group, arrives during a funeral service at Troekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow April 8, 2023.


The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the downing of the plane.

Putin said an investigation into what happened to the private jet is already underway.

Russian investigators said identification of the ten people found at the crash site is ongoing. In addition, the aircraft’s flight recorders were recovered and subjected to forensic testing.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said he gave no security guarantees to Prigozhin after the Wagner mutiny in Russia, but added that Putin was not behind the plane crash.

“I can’t imagine that Putin did it, that Putin is responsible for it,” Lukashenko said.

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The Pentagon announced on Thursday that initial findings indicate that the Wagner boss died in the plane crash on Wednesday.

“It is likely that Prigozhin was killed and we continue to assess the situation,” US Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

“The press report says it was some kind of surface-to-air missile; we believe this information is inaccurate,” Ryder said, declining to elaborate.

CNBC and NBC News have not confirmed Prigozhin’s death.

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