Kremlin says Wagner's legal status needs reviewing
PHOTO CAPTION: Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pull out of the headquarters of the Southern Military District to return to base, in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
(Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Friday that the status of the private Wagner mercenary group needed to be "considered", a day after President Vladimir Putin said the group had no legal basis.
Putin told a reporter from Kommersant newspaper on Thursday that Wagner, which staged a brief armed mutiny last month, "does not exist" in a legal sense because there is no law in Russia relating to private military companies.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the status of companies such as Wagner was "rather complicated" and needed to be studied.
Asked if new legislation was likely on the status of private military companies, he said: "This question will at least be under consideration."
Wagner has waged the fiercest battles of the Ukraine war for Russia but uncertainty has surrounded its fate and that of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin since last month's mutiny, when it seized control of a southern city and advanced towards Moscow.
The defence ministry said this week that Wagner was completing the transfer of its weapons to the regular army under the accord with the Kremlin that brought the mutiny to an end.
Putin told Kommersant he had offered Wagner mercenaries the opportunity to keep fighting for Russia during a meeting held five days after the mutiny but suggested Prigozhin be moved aside in favour of a different commander.
Under the terms of the agreement ending the June 23-24 mutiny, Prigozhin was meant to go into exile in Belarus, a close ally of Russia. However, he has not been seen in public since June 24 and his current whereabouts are unknown.
(Reporting by ReutersWriting by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Gareth Jones)