Russia-linked Wagner Group recruits Russian convicts as troop numbers dwindle in Ukraine: UK intelligence


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Infantry shortages on the battlefront in Ukraine prompted the Kremlin-linked private military force known as the Wagner Group to recruit Russian convicts as the flag of its forces.

On Friday, British intelligence said the mercenary group had been working since at least July to bolster Moscow’s ranks by visiting Russian prisons to entice volunteers out of their cells and into Ukraine.

“Prisoners have been offered a commutation of sentence as well as cash incentives,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a daily press briefing. “That was reinvigorated, with a recently released video most likely showing Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin making a recruitment pitch to prisoners.”

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE The Russian military and pro-Russian separatists monitor the evacuation of civilians along humanitarian corridors in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 24, 2022.
(Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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A video reportedly appeared on Telegram this week showing Prigozhin addressing inmates, all of whom were wearing black prison uniforms, and stressing that he was specifically looking for “fighters for assault units” to take up arms against Kyiv.

“No one is going back behind bars,” Prigozhin told inmates according to The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov. “If you serve six months, you’re free. If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we execute you.”

Prigozhin reportedly went on to say he couldn’t give any “guarantees”, but stressed that “only two other people can get you out of here, God and Allah, and they will do it in a wooden coffin”.

“I can get you out alive. But you can’t stay alive,” he added.

TOPSHOT - This photograph taken on September 11, 2022 shows a Ukrainian soldier standing on top of an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region.

TOPSHOT – This photograph taken on September 11, 2022 shows a Ukrainian soldier standing on top of an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region.
(Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

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Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russian academies had also started to cut the training time for its new cadets and said they were likely heading to the front lines.

“The impact of Russia’s labor challenge has become increasingly severe,” the ministry said. “The acceleration of officer cadet training and Wagner’s demand for assault troops suggest that two of the most critical shortages in the military manpower crisis are probably combat infantry and junior commanders.”

Firefighters extinguish a blaze following a Russian shelling in a park in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 3.

Firefighters extinguish a blaze following a Russian shelling in a park in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 3.
(AP/Felipe Dana)

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The latest attempts to bring Russian boots to the front lines come as Ukrainian troops have made significant progress in the past two weeks since launching a major counter-offensive.

Western defense officials said their ability to make rapid progress was due to a coordinated effort and strategic planning, coupled with Russia’s failure to resupply and properly regroup its troops in the north over the past six months. month.


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