Putin wants to keep Wagner fighters under a new commander

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin hopes to keep the Wagner mercenary forces together under a new commander and cut the group's ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Institute for the Study of War wrote on July 14.

In a July 13 interview, Putin told Russian news outlet Kommersant that he offered Wagner soldiers the opportunity to fight under a different commander in a meeting held June 29. Putin claimed that this meeting included Prigozhin and 35 other Wagner commanders.

Putin said he gave the private military company the choice of serving under a commander who has led Wagner troops for the past 16 months and uses the callsign "Seda."

In Putin's account, the 35 commanders nodded their agreement at this offer, while Prigozhin did not agree and did not see the other officers nod.

Putin's remarks correspond with the ISW's assessment that the Kremlin wishes to keep the Wagner forces cohesive and simply oust Prigozhin, rather than break up the Wagner Group or cut ties with the mercenary company altogether.

In the interview, Putin repeated "the absurd notion" that private mercenary groups are not active in Russia, the ISW wrote.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian government today announced its official cooperation with the Wagner Group, which has begun conducting training with Belarusian soldiers.

Russian attacked on Zaporizhzhia Oblast

Russian troops attacked the town of Stepnohirsk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast with Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, injuring three people on July 15.

Zaporizhzhia Oblast is one of the axes of the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive. Still, Russian shelling has long targeted areas near the southeastern front line since the early days of the full-scale war.

On July 15, Russia unleashed Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 drones at Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, the Ukrainian military's Southern Operational Command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said on television.

Ukraine's air defense shot down all three Shaheds in Mykolaiv Oblast, but there's been a hit in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Humeniuk added. She did not disclose what was hit.

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces shelled front-line towns and villages in Zaporizhzhia Oblast 45 times, targeting areas like Huliaipole, Orikhiv, and the liberated villages of Novodarivka, reported Zaporizhzhia Oblast Governor Yuriy Malashko.

Earlier on July 13, Russian troops struck the town of Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, killing a 40-year-old man and injuring another civilian, the regional administration reported.

16 high-rise buildings, medical facility and educational institutions damaged in attack on Zaporizhzhia

A man was injured and an infrastructure facility, 16 high-rise buildings, two educational institutions and a medical facility were damaged in a Russian attack on Zaporizhzhia on the night of 14-15 July.

So far, 174 applications for damaged housing have been received. We are aware of 16 affected high-rise buildings, two educational institutions and one medical facility.

Russian officers are dissatisfied with Gerasimov and Shoigu

UK Defence Intelligence reacted to the dismissal of Major General Ivan Popov, the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army in Russia, who allegedly reported to the command about the difficult situation in Zaporizhia Oblast.

The intelligence noted that the Russian Federation had regularly dismissed commanders since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, but the situation with Popov drew attention because he was dismissed for raising concerns, not for allegedly poor military results.

In a leaked video intended for his subordinates, Popov sharply criticised the leadership of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, saying that it is "hitting us from the rear, viciously beheading the Army at the most difficult and intense moment".

Popov's comments highlight the serious disaffection that many officers are likely to have with the military's senior leadership, the intelligence said.

The intelligence adds that his complaints largely echo those made by Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin prior to his June 2023 mutiny.

Direct criticism from subordinates is likely to become an increasing problem for Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff General Gerasimov.