Europe 1 with AFP 17:21 p.m., September 29, 2023

On the 582nd day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked a former lieutenant of Yevgeny Prigozhin to train volunteers to fight in Ukraine. At the same time, the president of the latter commemorated the 82nd anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres.

Vladimir Putin has asked a former lieutenant of Yevgeny Prigozhin, boss of the Wagner group who fell out of favor in the eyes of the Russian president and died in the crash of his plane at the end of August, to train volunteers to fight in Ukraine. "At the last meeting, we discussed the fact that you will be involved in the formation of volunteer units capable of carrying out various combat missions, mainly, of course, in the area of the +special military operation+," in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin told Andrei Troshev on Thursday, according to a Kremlin statement issued Friday.

According to Vladimir Putin, Andrei Trochev, nicknamed "Sedoi" (gray hair, in Russian), a former very close friend of Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Wagner galaxy, has the experience to carry out such a mission, three months after the abortive attempt of rebellion in Russia of the paramilitary group. A retired colonel, he is often described as one of the founders of Wagner and is under European sanctions for having been "directly involved in the group's military operations (...) in Syria," according to an EU document dated late 2021. "You know the issues that need to be resolved in advance for the combat work to proceed in the best way and with as much success as possible," Putin told the former military man.

The main information:

  • Putin asked a former Prigozhin lieutenant to train volunteers to fight in Ukraine
  • Zelensky commemorates the 82nd anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres
  • Orban warns EU against integrating warring country

Good relations maintained

The Russian president also praised the fact that Andrei Troshev "maintains (good) relations with (his) comrades-in-arms." Vladimir Putin's request, formalized in the presence of Yunus-Bek Evkurov, Deputy Minister of Defense, shows a little more the integration of Wagner veterans into the Russian army. "(Andrei Trochev) is already working at the Defense Ministry," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA Novosti news agency moments later. At the end of June, after Wagner's abortive mutiny, the Kremlin had left three options to the fighters of the paramilitary group: integrate the ranks of the Russian army, join civilian life or go into exile in Belarus, Moscow's ally in its assault on Ukraine.

But the death of their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, at the end of August, in the crash of his plane between Moscow and St. Petersburg, alongside several members of his close guard, had marked the end of Wagner in its hitherto known form.

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Commemoration of the 82nd anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday commemorated the 82nd anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres, a ravine near Kiev, where the Nazis executed more than 30,000 Jews in 1941. Visibly moved, Volodymyr Zelensky, himself of Jewish faith, dressed in his usual khaki green military fatigues, lit a candle and then gathered in front of the monument "Menorah" dedicated to the Jews executed and buried inside this huge mass grave. He was accompanied by representatives of the Jewish community and descendants of victims, according to a video posted on his Telegram channel on the day of the commemoration of what was the largest shooting massacre of Jews in Ukraine by the Nazis and their local collaborators.

"Adults, children... Entire families... Women, men... Evil has not made a distinction between who to mow," he said in a message. "No matter how many years have passed, humanity will remember the lives cut short by Nazism. And she will always remember that this evil has been punished," said the Ukrainian president, promising "never again!" According to official figures, between 100,150 and 000,1941 people - Jews, but also Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and Ukrainians - were executed by force at Babi Yar between 1942 and <>, during the Nazi occupation of the country.

"These heinous crimes are imprescriptible. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. This is the only way to prevent similar genocides today," Prime Minister Denys Chmygal said on Telegram. The head of the presidency, Andriy Iermak, also drew a parallel with the Russian invasion of the country, where Kiev accuses Moscow of "war crimes", as in Butcha, where civilians were killed during the retreat of Russian forces in the spring of 2022, a carnage denied by Moscow. "We must stop the modern Russian Nazis who repeat the worst crimes against humanity," he said on social media. Last year, Volodymyr Zelensky called for "punishing" "criminals who cause such tragedies", targeting "dictators and tyrants".

Orban warns EU against integrating warring country

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, reluctant to welcome Ukraine into the European Union, warned Brussels on Friday against opening accession talks because of the many uncertainties related to the Russian invasion. "Is it appropriate to start negotiations with a country at war?" the nationalist leader said in a radio interview. "We don't know the dimensions of the territory because of the ongoing war. Nor the size of its population given the flood of refugees," he said. Integrating Ukraine "without being aware of these parameters would be an unprecedented decision", according to Orban, while "the whole decision-making system in the EU is based" on such elements.

Hungary has tense relations with Kiev: although a member of NATO, it refuses to provide any military contribution and maintains links with the Kremlin. Budapest is also constantly blowing on the embers of an old dispute over the rights of the Hungarian minority in western Ukraine. It has some 100,000 members, who became Ukrainians after the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War. In June 2022, the EU granted Ukraine candidate status, in a highly symbolic gesture. To take the next step, which is to open negotiations, the European Commission has defined seven benchmarks for Kiev.

These are conditions to be met, particularly in terms of the fight against widespread corruption and judicial reforms. In an interim evaluation in June, Brussels found that two criteria were met and that the other five were "at a certain level of progress". The EU executive is due to report on progress at the end of October and decide whether or not to open accession negotiations, before the 27 take up the issue at a summit in mid-December. These negotiations may take time to lead to accession.