Russia’s Defense Ministry has signed a contract with the Akhmat Group of Chechen Special Forces, a paramilitary group leading the Kremlin offensive near the town of Marinka in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
The announcement came on Monday, a day after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russia’s private mercenary group Wagner, refused to sign such a contract.
The agreements are part of a new Russian law aimed at controlling the private armies fighting on Moscow’s behalf in Ukraine.
The law requires all “volunteer units” to sign contracts by July 1 and place them under the control of the country’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.
The Kremlin says volunteer fighters will enjoy the same benefits as regular soldiers if they agree to the rules of the defense contract.
“I think it’s a very good thing,” Commander Akhmadapty Alaudinov said after group leader Ramzan Kadyrov accepted the offer.
He added that his group had “prepared and dispatched tens of thousands of volunteers” to Ukraine over the past 15 months.
So far, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, Chechen fighters have operated in areas behind the front line after engaging in bloody battles in Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol. Severodonetsk and Leshank.
But the institute said that after fighting intensified in Russia’s Belgorod earlier this month, Kadyrov’s forces were likely ordered to take a leading role in the fighting in Ukraine.
Over the weekend, Prigozhin said that his units “will not sign any contract with Shoigu.”
“Shoygu cannot properly control the military formations,” Prigozhin said in an audio message posted on his news service on Saturday.
Commander Wagner has repeatedly criticized the Russian Defense Ministry, saying it does not provide enough support for its forces in Ukraine.
Putin’s ally often unleashes obscene video speeches, blatantly mocking Moscow’s military leadership.
Kadyrov refused to criticize the Defense Ministry.
And the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, Colonel-General Alexei Kim, after signing the agreement with Chechnya, said that he hoped that other volunteer units would follow his example.