Russia’s Mercenary Group Hiring Criminals to Prepare for New Role in Ukraine Featured

Russia’s Wagner Group has begun hiring criminals and other previously undesirable personnel to bolster its dwindling numbers ahead of taking on a central role in the Kremlin’s new offensive in Ukraine, according to Western intelligence.  

The prolific private military contractor firm is “lowering recruitment standards, hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals” and providing them with “very limited training,” the U.K. Defense Ministry’s military intelligence concludes in a new assessment. The group has reinforced front-line forces in recent weeks and taken heavy casualties.

“This will highly likely impact on the future operational effectiveness of the group and reduce its value as a prop to the regular Russian forces,” according to the assessment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin first ordered the private firm in March to withdraw from prior operations in Africa and Syria to reinforce troops in Ukraine that met surprisingly deadly resistance from local forces. After completing an “operational pause” of his offensive in recent days, Putin likely expects the Wagner Group will grant Russia a new advantage even as the disparity among pro-Kremlin forces on the battlefield appears to be causing new problems.

“Wagner head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, has recently been made a Hero of the Russian Federation for Wagner’s performance in Luhansk,” the defense ministry states, citing one of the two oblasts that compose the Donbas, the focus of Russia’s latest offensive. “This, at a time when a number of very senior Russian military commanders are being replaced, is likely to exacerbate grievances between the military and Wagner.”

“It is also likely to impact negatively on Russian military morale,” it concludes.

The damning assessment comes as forces loyal to Moscow plan to escalate operations in the Donbas while continuing to target civilian centers across Ukraine from afar. On Saturday, they conducted limited ground attacks on Donetsk, the other oblast in the Donbas, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which has fastidiously documented Russia’s battlefield movements since its invasion.

“The end of the Russian operational pause is unlikely to create a massive new wave of ground assaults across multiple axes of advance despite Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s public order for exactly that,” the institute writes in a new analysis note.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense notably did not claim any new territorial gains on July 17,” the institute stated, adding that it predicts “ the end of the operational pause will be characterized by a fluctuating and staggered resumption of ground offensives.”

It adds that Russia appears to be “undertaking long-term force regeneration efforts that would allow the Kremlin to rebuild the badly damaged Russian military and/or sustain a long war in Ukraine.”

It cites Ukrainian intelligence assessments that Russia’s Young Army Cadets National Movement training center has created 500 new cadet classes and 1,000 junior army classes – accepting volunteers as young as 8 – who would not be ready to enter combat for a significant period of time. Russia has also opened up additional training for volunteers for its army, aviation and navy sectors including those “without military experience who want to join the Russian military,” according to the institute.

Ukraine, too, has faced troubling issues as it struggles to field an effective fighting force and the political leadership to support them. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his nightly address revealed that he had fired the chief of Ukraine’s principal security service as well as the prosecutor general – though neither was accused of treason – and that at least 60 people from within those offices who remain in occupied territory are under suspicion of “working against our state.”

He said a total of 200 other people in government had come under similar suspicion.

“The specific actions and any inaction of each official in the security sector and in law enforcement agencies will be evaluated,” Zelenskyy said. “Everyone who together with him was part of a criminal group that worked in the interests of the Russian Federation will also be held accountable.”/US Today

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 July 2022 06:25