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Ukraine monitors the fallout from the Wagner Group's failed revolt in Russia

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Russia's president is asserting control after a failed uprising last weekend.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some of Vladimir Putin's generals have not been seen in public. And that has fed questions about who may be under suspicion or under arrest for what they knew of the mercenary mutiny.

FADEL: And all of this is being closely watched in neighboring Ukraine. NPR's Greg Myre is in Kyiv and met a Ukrainian general who is not under arrest. Greg, who is he?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Yeah, so I spoke with General Viktor Nazarov. He's the chief adviser to Ukraine's top general. And Nazarov's own background is very interesting. He's 61 now. But as a young officer, he spent nearly a decade in the Soviet army. So some of his fellow officers at that time are now senior figures in the Russian military. So he's waging war against former comrades in arms. They all wore the same uniform when they began their military careers in the 1980s.

FADEL: OK, so he clearly has some insights into the Russian military that he's fighting. Does he think this mutiny in Russia is going to change the dynamics on the battlefield in Ukraine?

MYRE: So he's looking at it really just from a military perspective. And in that sense, he doesn't really think so. He says the mercenary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin were the deciding factor in this fight for the eastern town of Bakhmut that lasted for many months. But after the Wagner mercenaries captured the town, the Wagner forces pulled back, saying they needed to regroup. And they handed the town over to the regular Russian army. Let's have a listen.

VIKTOR NAZAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

MYRE: So he's saying here that the Wagner forces retreated to camps back from the front lines. They're in the far east of Ukraine. Wagner is seen more as an attack force, not a defensive force. And therefore, they're not expected - or weren't expected to play a crucial role now that Russia is mostly on the defensive, trying to stop this Ukrainian offensive.

FADEL: So he doesn't see a huge impact. How did the general describe the current state of Ukraine's offensive?

MYRE: So he said all this new equipment that the U.S. and NATO have been sending make Ukraine a more powerful army capable of an offensive like this. But he was also willing to point out Ukraine's disadvantages. He said Ukraine has lost many of its best, most experienced fighters. It's relying much more heavily on troops that were recently called up. They have limited training and no combat experience. And he also said, based on his background, don't underestimate the Russians. They have deep reserves and are very well-entrenched.

FADEL: Now, you told me a little bit about who he is, his history. But I want to hear more about his personal story. He was a Soviet military officer, and now he's fighting his former colleagues. How does he feel about that?

MYRE: Sure. So when the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine became independent. And he decided to return to his native Ukraine. He was a battalion commander. And before he headed home, he gathered his troops on his last day. And then at this point in our conversation, he switched to English.

NAZAROV: I invited my colleagues, officers, sergeants who was in my battalion. And I said to them one thing, that never in future we saw each other through the sights of our guns.

FADEL: Wow.

MYRE: He hoped they'd never see each other through the sights of the guns, but that's exactly what's happening now.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Myre in Kyiv. Thank you for your reporting.

MYRE: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.

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