Espreso. Global

British Intelligence explains why Russia returned Wagner soldiers to Bakhmut

29 September, 2023 Friday

In recent weeks, hundreds of militants formerly associated with the Wagner PMC have begun to redeploy individually and in small groups to fight in Ukraine

The UK Ministry of Defence reports.

The intelligence service recalls that the Wagner PMC withdrew from combat operations in Ukraine by early June 2023, prior to the abortive mutiny on June 24, 2023, and the subsequent death of Wagner PMC owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and other leaders in a plane crash on August 23, 2023.

It is noted that the exact status of the redeployed personnel is unclear, but it is likely that some individuals were transferred to parts of the official Russian army.

"Several reports suggest a concentration of Wagner veterans around Bakhmut: their experience is likely to be particularly in demand in this sector. Many will be familiar with the current front line and local Ukrainian tactics, having fought over the same terrain last winter," the report reads.

More about the fate of the Wagner mercenaries 

Following the mutiny of Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in late June, the Kremlin reported that mercenaries had been relocated to Belarus.

On June 27, the self-proclaimed President of Belarus confirmed the arrival of Yevgeny Prigozhin in the country. According to him, the Wagner mercenaries who arrived with him would not guard the Russian tactical nuclear weapons stationed there.

On July 31, it was reported that Wagner PMC had suspended the work of its regional centers for recruiting mercenaries " for an indefinite period". Also, by order of financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, they had to arrive at camps in the Republic of Belarus by August 5. 

On August 3, Wagner's mercenaries were stationed in Belarus near the border with Lithuania, in the city of Grodno. President Gitanas Nausėda was concerned about the security situation.

Later, on August 23, an Embraer business jet belonging to Yevgeny Prigozhin crashed in the Tver region of Russia, with 10 people reported dead. The PMC financier Wagner himself was among the passengers.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who ordered Prigozhin's murder in order to restore his dominance and avenge his humiliation.

After that, self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that Wagner PMC mercenaries would continue to be based in the country, despite the possible death of Prigozhin.

At the end of August, it was reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus had been issuing passports with changed surnames to Wagner's members for a month, which may be related to the preparation of sabotage activities, including terrorist attacks.

Satellite imagery showed that the dismantling of the Wagner PMC camp was underway. Between August 23 and September 14, approximately 60 large military tents were removed. As of September 18, less than 1,000 mercenaries remained in Belarus.  

Later, the National Resistance Center reported that Russia was creating a PMC in Africa for mercenaries, including Wagner fighters. At the same time, the structure is being formed on the basis of a brigade that is being taken out of Ukraine, where it took part in hostilities.

On September 24, ISW reported that some contingents of Wagner PMC are likely to return to fighting in the ranks of the Russian occupation army in Ukraine. Instead, the mercenaries will not be able to help the Russian army significantly turn the tide at the front in their favor.

Wagner PMC mercenaries arrived from Belarus to the territory of the Eastern Military Group. Some of them are now renegotiating contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry to return to the front in Ukraine, but this does not pose a major threat to the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
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