The Russian group Wagner completely collapses in Ukraine

Tens of thousands of fighters gathered to fight in Ukraine for the Wagner Group, Russia’s private mercenary corps, have disappeared or died, according to a Russian non-governmental organization.

While the Wagner Group has recruited about 50,000 fighters in recent months, including from prisons, only 10,000 fighters remain on the front lines for Wagner, Olga Romanova, head of Russia Behind Bars, told My Russian Rights, according to The Times of Moscow.

“According to our data, 42 to 43,000 [prisoners] were recruited at the end of December. Now they are probably over 50,000 already,” Romanova said. “Among them, 10,000 are fighting at the front, because all the others are either killed… or missing, or abandoned, or surrendered.

The cited stat is just the latest indication that Wagner’s fighting strength is collapsing in Ukraine, even as Russia strives for battlefield victories nearly a year after the invasion. from Ukraine.

Wagner Group fighters have been involved in heavy fighting in Soledar in recent weeks, a town in which Russia has claimed victory. Wagner was also largely responsible for the gains made at nearby Bakhmut, “at extraordinary cost”, given that many Wagner recruits had received minimal training since Wagner recruited 40,000 convicts, John Kirby, coordinator of the White House National Security Council, told reporters last time. the week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also alluded to the dramatic Russian losses at Soledar in a recent speech.

“The area near Soledar is covered with corpses of invaders,” Zelensky said. “This is what madness looks like.”

The US Department of Defense also assessed that both Russian and Wagner forces suffered huge casualties.

It’s “well over 100,000 now,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last week. “The Russians have suffered a considerable number of casualties in their army, and that includes their regular army as well as their mercenaries, the Wagner group, and other types of forces that are fighting with the Russians.”

There are indications that some of these losses could be desertions. Earlier this month, a former member of the Wagner Group, Andrei Medvedev, was caught fleeing to Norway, AFP reported. Medvedev, who was arrested, would be the first member of Wagner to defect to the west, according to the BBC.

Medvedev offered to share details of his experiences in the private mercenary group to help expose war crimes to investigators, AFP reported. He would have witnessed “the execution of deserters” and “terrorist methods”.

The Biden administration announced last week that it was designating the Wagner Group as a “transnational criminal organization” in an effort to disrupt Wagner’s supply and ability to do business around the world.

“Wagner is a criminal organization that…commits widespread atrocities and human rights abuses, and we will work tirelessly to identify, disrupt, expose and target those who assist Wagner,” the National Security Council’s Kirby said.

News of Wagner’s disintegration comes as the mercenary group is also experiencing trouble with the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose army has faltered in Ukraine due to logistical and command-and-control failures, has for some time relied on the combat power of the Wagner Group to try to make up for the forces’ failures. Russian armies in Ukraine, according to a white journalist. House National Security Council assessment. But Putin and Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin have been at loggerheads in recent days, contradicting each other and claiming their fighting forces were responsible for Soledar.

Putin appears to have started trying to shift the fighting burden from Russia to the military in recent weeks. The president shook up the command of the Russian armed forces earlier this month by promoting General Valery Gerasimov, in an apparent attempt to give some momentum to Russian military strategy.

The recent reshuffle likely sidelined Wagner, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

“Putin’s decision to focus and rely on conventional Russian forces marginalizes the Wagner Group and the Siloviki faction which nonetheless continues to contribute to Russian war efforts in Ukraine,” the ISW said in an assessment this week. .

Gerasimov began his work trying to improve the discipline of Russia’s armed forces, according to a British government intelligence assessment shared on Monday.

“Since he took command, officers have attempted to crack down on unregulated uniforms, travel in civilian vehicles, use of cell phones and non-standard haircuts,” the intelligence assessment said. . “The measures were met with skeptical comments. However, some of the biggest mockery has been reserved for attempts to improve the level of troop shaving.

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