Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu has approved an order that forces all “volunteer units” to sign contracts with the Defence Ministry by 1 July, the ministry announced on its website.
The formations in question are not specified in the statement but the defence agency has repeatedly referred to private military company mercenaries as “volunteers”.
According to Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Nikolay Pankov, the move will give them “the necessary legal status, create unified approaches to organising comprehensive provisions and fulfilment of tasks”.
At the same time, the “volunteers” can choose between signing direct contracts with these units or the Defence Ministry.
“The order grants the right to all volunteers to sign individual contracts with volunteer formations or the Defence Ministry as contract service members,” Pankov said.
He added that “these measures will make it possible to boost combat capabilities and effectiveness of the [Russian] armed forces and volunteer units included in them”.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the mercenary Wagner Group, rejected the order, saying that his company won’t sign it.
“The orders that Shoigu gives are mandatory for the Defence Ministry staffers and service members. The Wagner Group will not sign any contracts with Shoigu. The fact that he drafts orders is only relevant for the Defence Ministry and all those in its framework,” Prigozhin noted.
At the same time, he stressed that his “private military company is fully compliant with interests of Russia and the commander-in-chief” and “coordinates all its actions with Army General [Sergey] Surovikin and completes the tasks he sets out”.