50,000 Wagner mercenaries in the Ukraine war – now some even command Putin's army?
Created: 12/23/2022, 12:00 p.m
By: Felix Durach
The number of “Wagner” mercenaries deployed in Ukraine is increasing.
Meanwhile, British intelligence has doubts about the Kremlin's recruitment plans.
Moscow - The influence of the notorious mercenary group "Wagner" in the Russian army seems to have grown during the Ukraine war.
According to reports from the US government, there are currently almost 50,000 members of the paramilitary group on combat missions in Ukraine.
Sometimes “Wagner” is also in command.
The majority of the fighters were apparently recruited from Russian prisons for the mission.
Ukraine war: 50,000 "Wagner" mercenaries deployed for Russia - most recruited from prison
John Kirby, the White House communications director, said in Washington DC on Thursday that almost 40,000 convicts were among the "Wagner" mercenaries.
Because of the lack of training and the area in which the mercenaries are deployed, the losses in the ranks of the “Wagner” group are enormous.
According to Kirby, 1,000 "Wagner" mercenaries were killed in Ukraine in the past week alone.
Behind the mercenary army is Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known by the nickname "Putin's cook".
It was only in September of this year that Prigozhin publicly acknowledged having founded the “Wagner” group in 2014.
Prigozhin is also notorious for his unscrupulous conduct of paramilitary operations, including in Ukraine.
Prigozhin "literally puts people through a meat grinder" in Ukraine, Kirby said.
He doesn't care about human life, especially Ukrainian ones.
"But I would go so far as to say not even in Russian," the US official said.
He announced new US sanctions against the mercenary force.
The Russian Yevgeny Prigozhin financed the Wagner mercenary group, and the army was also involved in the Ukraine war.
War in Ukraine: "Wagner" mercenaries probably also take command of Russian soldiers
Kirby also stated that "North Korea has completed an initial arms shipment to 'Wagner'" - the mercenary group paid for it.
"We assume that the amount of material supplied to 'Wagner' will not change the dynamics on the battlefield and in Ukraine, but we are certainly concerned that North Korea is planning to supply more military equipment .”
The US reports also show that "Wagner" mercenaries have in certain cases also been put in command of soldiers in the Russian army.
A notable development also because President Vladimir Putin has always denied that the Kremlin is using the mercenary force specifically to support the Russian army.
However, observers had long referred to the “Wagner Group” as “Putin's shadow army”.
But the Russian President currently seems to have problems with the planned expansion of his armed forces.
A man in camouflage stands outside the headquarters of the Wagner group in Moscow.
© OLGA MALTSEVA/imago-images
Russia wants to increase army strength by 30 percent - British intelligence expresses doubts
Because the British Ministry of Defense reported on Friday (December 23) in its daily Ukraine update on major challenges for Moscow in recruiting new soldiers.
Plans have been presented to Putin to increase the strength of the army by 30 percent to 1.5 million soldiers.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the expansion will affect at least two brigades in north-western Russia, which are expected to grow to divisional strength.
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However, the British authorities see unresolved issues in the project.
"It remains unclear how Russia will find the recruits to achieve such an increase at a time when its armed forces are under unprecedented pressure in Ukraine," the British statement said.
The Russian army could therefore increasingly rely on the use of "Wagner" mercenaries in Ukraine.
(fd with dpa)