Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed to Wagner Group fighters that a senior mercenary named Andrey Troshev now command the private military group, according to comments the Russian leader made to the Kommersant newspaper.
Putin appears to have created a split between senior fighters from the Wagner mercenary group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin since its failed uprising last month – at least in terms of the narrative emerging from his comments to the Kommersant.
The paper was reporting on a meeting held by the Russian president five days after the Wagner rebellion collapsed at the end of June – a meeting attended by Prigozhin and several dozen senior Wagner combatants.
According to Kommersant, Putin told dozens of Wagner mercenaries in the meeting that among the multiple employment choices he offered to them, one included them continuing to fight under their direct commander, a man who goes by the call sign, ‘Sedoy,’ meaning ‘grey hair.’
“They could have all gathered in one place and continued to serve,” Putin said, “and nothing would have changed for them. They would be led by the same person who has been their real commander all along.”
“And what happened then?” the Kommersant reporter said in reply to Putin. “Many people nodded [affirmatively] when I said that,” Putin replied.
Sedoy is the call sign of Andrey Troshev, a retired Russian colonel and a founding member and Executive Director of the Wagner Group, according to sanctions documents published by the European Union and France.
European Union sanctions concerning the situation in Syria detail Troshev’s position as the chief of staff of the Wagner Group operations in Syria, which supported the Syrian regime.
Troshev was born in April 1953 in Leningrad, in the former Soviet Union, according to the EU sanctions from December 2021.
“Andrey Troshev is directly involved in the military operations of the Wagner Group in Syria. He was particularly involved in the area of Deir ez-Zor,” it added. “As such, he provides a crucial contribution to Bashar al-Assad’s war effort and therefore supports and benefits from the Syrian regime.”
United Kingdom sanctions from June 2022 also say “Andrey Nikolaevich Troshev was the Chief Executive of the Wagner Group. Therefore, he has supported the Syrian regime, was a member of a militia, and has repressed the civilian population in Syria.”
His associates include Wagner Group founder Dimitriy Utkin, who is also a former Russian GRU military intelligence officer, according to EU sanctions. Troshev is also associated with Wagner group commanders Aleksandr Sergeevich Kuznetsov and Andrey Bogatov.
‘Grey hair’ is also a former employee of the special rapid response detachment of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Northwestern Federal District, according to Russian online news outlet Fontanka. He is also a veteran of the wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan.
For his service in Afghanistan, Troshev was awarded two Orders of the Red Star – a Soviet Union decoration for exceptional service. For service in the operation in Chechnya, he was awarded two Orders of Courage and a medal of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2nd degree, according to Russian media.
Troshev was among those invited to a reception at the Kremlin in December 2016. A photograph, believed to be from that 2016 reception, emerged in Russian media in 2017 and shows Putin alongside Troshev and Utkin, who are both wearing several medals.
Ukraine imposed sanctions against Troshev on February 26, 2023.
Meanwhile, the fate of Wagner boss Prigozhin remains unclear. Prigozhin had reportedly traveled to Belarus as part of a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko following the failed uprising, but the Belarusian president told CNN last week the Wagner leader is now in Russia.
Footage purporting to show a police raid on Prigozhin’s premises in St. Petersburg has also raised questions about his status. Prigozhin has not been seen in public since June 2.