Espreso. Global

ISW examines how returning Wagner troops would impact Russian army capabilities

24 September, 2023 Sunday

Separate groups from Wagner PMC are expected to rejoin the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine. However, these mercenaries are unlikely to significantly alter the situation in Russia's favor on the frontlines

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) shared their assessment in the usual report.

The ISW report notes that the disjoint Wagner PMC groups returning to Ukraine are unlikely to have a substantial impact on Russia's military capabilities. According to analysts, they won't deliver the same level of effectiveness that the PMC previously had when operating as a unified organization under the leadership of Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin.

For instance, on September 23, Serhiy Haidai, the former head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration, mentioned that Wagner-affiliated individuals are active in the Luhansk region and various frontline areas. However, there is limited information available regarding the number of militants or the specific organization they operate under within Ukraine.

A source connected to Wagner claims that approximately 500 Wagner-affiliated fighters, including those who opted out of the June 24 Wagner mutiny, have joined a new, undisclosed organization. It's worth noting that the former head of Wagner PMC's personnel department may lead this new group.

According to ISW, these mercenaries are likely to return to Ukraine to engage in combat along the southern flank near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

ISW has previously reported on efforts by Wagner PMC's HR chief (formerly known as Vadim V. "Khrustal") to recruit Wagner fighters for operations in Africa. 

“These reports indicate that Wagner forces are fragmented and are unlikely to organize into a cohesive fighting force or have an impact on Russian combat capabilities if they return to fighting in Ukraine,” according to the Institute for the Study of War.

What happened to Wagner soldiers

After the mutiny of Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in late June, the Kremlin announced the relocation of Wagner mercenaries to Belarus.

On June 27, self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the arrival of Yevgeny Prigozhin in the country. According to him, Wagner mercenaries  who arrived with him will not guard the Russian tactical nuclear weapons deployed there. However, Lukashenko emphasized that he expects the mercenaries to help in the defense of Belarus, without specifying the potential source of the country's perceived threat.

On July 31, the Wagner PMC had suspended the work of its regional recruitment centers "indefinitely." And Prigozhin revoked the vacations of employees and ordered them to arrive in Belarus by August 5.

On August 3, Wagner's private military contractors were in Belarus near the Lithuania border, in Grodno. The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, was worried about the security situation.

On August 23, a business jet belonging to Yevgeny Prigozhin, an Embraer aircraft, crashed in Russia's Tver region, resulting in the confirmed deaths of 10 individuals. Among the passengers was Dmitry Utkin, a key figure in Wagner PMC. 

ISW analysts believe that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's willingness to publicly kill Wagner's leadership is likely to prompt the PMC's Council of Commanders to refrain from publicly appointing successors to Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin.

Following this, on August 25, Belarus' self-proclaimed President, Oleksandr Lukashenko, stated that Wagner mercenaries would continue to operate in Belarus, even if Prigozhin had likely died.

By August 29, opposition leaders reported that the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs had been issuing passports with changed surnames to Wagner personnel for a month. This could be connected to their preparations for sabotage, potentially including terrorist activities.

The liquidation of the Wagner PMC camp in the village of Tsel near Osypovych continues, as shown by satellite imagery. About 60 large military tents have been removed since August 23

As of September 18, fewer than 1,000 Wagner PMC mercenaries have remained in Belarus.

Later, the National Resistance Center reported that Russia was forming a private military company in Africa, including some Wagner mercenaries. This organization was being established based on a brigade that had been involved in combat operations in Ukraine.

For more information about the plane crash involving Prigozhin, follow the link.

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