Russia Deploys Largely Untrained Wagner Mercenaries In Ukraine
Wagner, a private military contractor (PMC) in Russia, has now openly come out of the shadows as recruitment posters mushroom in Moscow and other cities seeking recruits to battle Ukrainians and battalions of Chechens, Belarussians, Poles, and Russians who have joined the war against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pjotr Sauer reported for the Guardian.
Photo Insert: Wagner has been repeatedly accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.
"It looks like they have decided that they will no longer try to hide their existence. By now, everyone knows who they are,” said Denis Korotkov, a former Novaya Gazeta journalist and longtime observer of Wagner.
Wagner was established in 2014 to support pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The US and others say it is funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a powerful oligarch and caterer closely linked to Vladimir Putin who is under Western sanctions. Prigozhin denies any link to the group.
Wagner has been repeatedly accused of war crimes and human rights abuses. It has regional recruitment centers in more than 20 cities, posting the phone numbers of recruiters on popular social media channels linked to the group.
The ads say that Wagner offers soldiers over 240,000 roubles (£3,370) a month, several times more than regular soldiers’ typical wages.
Military analysts have argued that Russia’s reliance on groups like Wagner shows the extent to which the country’s regular army, which has lost as much as a third of its combat strength, has struggled to achieve its goals in Ukraine.
"Wagner private military contractors have reportedly played a critical role in the fighting. Indeed, it is fair to ask whether some Wagner detachments … are in fact more elite and capable than regular Russian motorized rifle units,” wrote Michael Kofman and Rob Lee, two leading specialists on the Russian military, in a recent briefing for the website War on the Rocks.
The war in Ukraine and Russia’s military failures appear to have also accelerated Wagner’s cooperation with the defense ministry. Marat Gabidullin, a former Wagner commander, told the Guardian in an earlier interview that his troops worked closely with Russia’s defense ministry when fighting in Syria.
That relationship appears to have deepened since the start of the war in Ukraine. According to an investigation by the independent Meduza outlet, the Russian ministry of defense has largely taken control of the networks that Wagner used to recruit new soldiers.
Korotkov said it was hard to distinguish between soldiers fighting for Wagner and those in the regular army. And while Wagner’s role in the invasion has made the group mainstream, some say its latest recruitment push threatens to diminish its overall military standards.
“Even before the conflict, less than 30% of the soldiers in Wagner were actual professionals,” said Gabidullin. “Now, the group will mostly consist of a bunch of amateurs … The circus that is Russia continues.”