Ukrainian Armed Forces confirm return of Wagner fighters to front
The Wagner 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
Head of the press service of the Eastern Military Group Ilia Yevlash said this in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.
"We confirm that the Wagner fighters are present on the territory of the Eastern Military Group. These are Wagner PMC servicemen who were on the territory of Belarus," he said.
In particular, we are talking about about 500 people who are planned to be involved in the war by the Russian Federation. According to Yevlash, the Wagner soldiers, who numbered about 8,000 fighters, are currently disbanding their camps in Belarus.
"Now some of these militants have gone to Africa, while others are renegotiating contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry and returning here, to eastern Ukraine, to take part in combat operations, both as instructors and as soldiers," the head of the press service of the Eastern Military Group told the publication.
At the same time, he noted that they would not pose a significant threat, as they did before, since their leader Prigozhyn had been eliminated.
"These people are indeed among the best trained in the Russian army, but they will not become a significant threat, a 'game changer'" Yevlash concluded.
What is known about the fate of the Wagner fighters
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 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.
Subsequently, the Institute for the Study of War suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin might have ordered the assassination of Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to reassert dominance and seek revenge.
After that, self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the Wagner mercenaries would continue to be based in the country, despite the probable death of Prigozhin.
At the end of August, it became known that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus had been issuing passports with changed surnames to the Wagner soldiers 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 in the village of Tsel near Osipovichi 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 Center for National Resistance reported that the enemy was creating a PMC in Africa for mercenaries, including the Wagner mercenaries. 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 scattered contingents of the 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 Russians significantly turn the tide at the front in their favor.