Peskov confirms mercenary commander’s presence at Kremlin banquet
Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Dmitri Utkin, who goes by the pseudonym Wagner and is known to be the chief commander of Russian mercenaries, was a guest at a banquet that took place at the Kremlin on December 9.
“Dmitri Utkin was present, indeed. He [is a member] of the Order of Courage,” said Peskov. Peskov found it difficult to respond to the question of why exactly Utkin had received this honor and simply established that the Order of Courage is usually awarded for displays of courage.
When asked by journalists to clarify whether Wagner’s mercenaries are currently fighting in Syria, Peskov said: “I do not know whether [Utkin] has any fighters and do not know whether they are in Syria.”
On December 12, news source Fontanka reported that at Dmitri Utkin was seen a reception ceremony in honor of the Heroes of the Fatherland in the Kremlin. Peskov promised to verify this information.
According to Fontanka and Gazety.ru, Utkin is the head of a private military company involved in training mercenaries to take part in the military operations, including those in the Donbass and Syria.
The Russian Criminal Code has an article maintaining that mercenary activities are punishable for up to 15 years in prison.