RIGA, Latvia — Despite heavy combat losses during a brutal ten-month war, Russia is now twice as prepared to go to war in Ukraine as it was when it invaded in February.including thousands of convicts released from prison and recruited into a controversial mobilization campaign this autumn.
According to a new estimate from the US, Wagner mercenary groupIt has been fighting alongside Russian regular troops in Ukraine, adding to its ranks in recent months. 40,000 prisoners from all over the country. together, With 300,000 new recruits and 20,000 volunteersThe Russian force is now more than double the initial 150,000 in what President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation”.
The surge of Russian forces, after more than 25,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured, supports Putin’s continued promise to achieve his military objectives in Ukraine. Military experts widely question the readiness and morale of new recruits.
New statistics, exposed by pUS National Security Spokesman John KirbyAt a conference held last Thursday, assessments by human rights groups in general, incl Russia behind barsHe has said that The unofficial recruitment of Russian prisoners took place outside of the “partial mobilization” ordered by Putin at the end of September.
In reports released this week, The Russian Defense Minister Sergei ShoiguHe said 300,000 men were mobilized in September and October, and another 20,000 joined as volunteers.
In a conference held on Thursday, Kirby said that 40,000 of the 50,000 members of the Wagoner group were criminals.. Kirby added that Washington believes at least 900 prisoners have been killed in recent fighting in eastern Ukraine. Wagner, led by businessman Yevgeniy Prigozhin, was engaged in a power struggle with other structures of the Russian military, he said.
“In some cases, Russian military officers actually obeyed Wagner’s orders”Kirby said. “It is clear to us that Wagner is growing into a rival powerhouse of the Russian military and other Russian ministries.”
PrigogineNicknamed Putin’s Chef because he earned Russian government catering contracts, he was videotaped in September visiting prisons to help join Wagner.
Prigozhin said that the press service of the catering company from Concord, which was later alerted to the video, “can confirm that the person in the video bears a strong resemblance to Yevgeny Viktorovich.”
In recent weeks, Wagner is concentrating on his attempt to capture the Ukrainian city of Bagmut, an attack that unleashed some of the bloodiest fighting of the war, but it did not yield the long-awaited victory. This week, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr ZelenskyVisiting Bagmouth, he presented medals to some of the soldiers who had taken part in the defense of the city, noting that Wagner had so far failed to capture it.
“It looks like Prigozhin is ready to throw Russian bodies into the meat grinder at Pakmut,” Kirby said. “In fact, about 1,000 Wagnerian fighters have been killed in fighting in recent weeks, and we believe that 90 percent of those 1,000 fighters are actually criminals.”
The Prigozhin prison recruitment effort, which began in late spring or early summer, was a response to the urgent need for reinforcements in hopes of protecting the Russian population from direct participation in the war at a time when Putin still resisted a mobilization.
Throughout the war, Wagner rose to prominence after early victories in the Luhansk region, which faced several setbacks by Russian regular forces, leading the government media to openly applaud and praise him for the first time. Wagner operated in the shadows for a long time, and Moscow denied any relationship with him.
Government of United KingdomFor his part, he believes Wagner’s fighters in Ukraine have risen from an estimated 1,000 in March 2022 to nearly 20,000, which the UK says represents 10 percent of Russian forces on the ground.
Prigozhin and recruiters are connected Wagner offered the prisoners amnesty and freedom in exchange for a six-month war. They also receive a monthly salary of about $1,400, which is sent to the prisoner’s relatives, but those who try to flee ahead risk being shot, but are warned.
Olga RomanovaDirector Russian pin bars, families usually receive their wages irregularly, but there is no legal basis or guarantee that fighters will receive what they were promised. Even their freedom may be legally uncertain, Romanova said.
“The court decisions in this recruitment case have not been overturned, they are still enrolled in the prison service,” Romanova said. “Amnesties are issued by presidential decree and it is a very complicated process which has not been changed in any way. So there is no pardon or pardon approved by the Parliament.
Romanova also claimed that the prisoners’ vulnerable status and lack of legal protection freed Wagner to extrajudicially kill ex-convicts who broke the mercenary group’s rules.
“They promise to shoot them, and they do it for using drugs and alcohol or for having sex,” Romanova said. “I would say these are mass extrajudicial executions.”
According to Romanova, Convicts are thrown into the front lines, used to clear mines or as infantry, They are often ill-healthed and untrained, leading to heavy losses. “Of the first men who took part in the first battles in July, we know of only one survivor… He was one of a unit of about a hundred men,” he said.
In November, a video surfaced on a Telegram account linked to the Wagner scene The apparent execution of Yevgeny NuzhinThe 55-year-old was serving a 24-year sentence for a 1999 murder.
In July he signed a contract to join Wagner, but returned to Ukraine, where he gave a series of interviews. In the video, an unknown man in uniform is seen hitting Nuji with a sledgehammer while his head is taped to bricks.
Prigozhin did not claim direct responsibility for Nuzhin’s death or acknowledge Wagner’s role in it, but branded Nuzhin a traitor, saying that he “did not find happiness in Ukraine, but met ruthless, but fair people”.
Putin said in a speech earlier this week that 150,000 mobilized men were already stationed in the war zone, while the other half “are in military training camps and are being trained and have enough reserves.”
“It’s done on a rotational basis, because you can’t send thousands of soldiers to the front line and keep them there until the end of the war; you have to rotate them periodically,” said Ruslan Leviv, an analyst with the Conflict Intelligence Group who has been following Russian military operations in Ukraine since 2014. “You fight, you retreat, you rest, you fight again… so you have 150,000 people waiting their turn.
(c) 2022, The Washington Post – Mary Ilyushina and Francesca Ebel
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