Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, speaks in Paraskoviivka, Ukraine in this still image from an undated video released on March 3, 2023.
Concord Press Service/via REUTERS
Russia is using the battle for Bakhmut to kill off Wagner soldiers, according to a DC-based think tank.
The pro-Kremlin mercenary army has aided Russia’s military, but its leader has become more critical.
The military is likely trying to “expend” Wagner troops and weaken the group’s leader, the ISW said.
Russia is using the fight for the city of Bakhmut as a way to heavily weaken a mercenary force that once boosted its army but has become increasingly critical of its military leadership, according to the Washington DC-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The battle for the eastern Ukrainian city has become one of the bloodiest of Russia’s invasion. And the Wagner Group, which has tens of thousands of mercenaries and former prisoners deployed in Ukraine, is heavily involved in the fighting.
In an update on Sunday, the ISW said that Russia’s defense ministry is likely using the battle to significantly reduce the Wagner Group, as a feud between them escalates.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group’s leader, who is also known as Putin’s chef, has become highly critical of Russia’s military leadership.
And the ISW said that Russia’s leadership “is likely seizing the opportunity to deliberately expend both elite and convict Wagner forces in Bakhmut in an effort to weaken Prigozhin and derail his ambitions for greater influence in the Kremlin.”
The think tank added that “Russian military leadership may be trying to expend Wagner forces – and Prigozhin’s influence – in Bakhmut.”
Wagner has played a growing role since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at the same time as Russia’s traditional military has struggled. Over time, the military became more reliant on the group, with US officials saying that traditional forces had started to copy its brutal tactics.
But the two forces have been in a deepening public feud.
The ISW said that Putin’s use of the Wagner group had likely angered Russia’s traditional military leadership, “who were then tasked with sharing limited equipment and ammunition with Wagner mercenaries.”
Prigozhin and Russia’s defense ministry have also clashed over who could take credit for Russian victories.
The ISW described Prigozhin as waging “a relentless defamation campaign” against Russia’s military.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also started to distance himself from Prigozhin, with the Wagner …read more
Source:: Business Insider