- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2023

The head of the Wagner Group mercenary force may be shifting his focus away from the battlefield in Ukraine back to Africa, where in the past they have conducted operations in countries such as Sudan and Mali, according to the Moscow Times newspaper.

The possible move may be linked to lingering tensions between Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and senior military officials in the Kremlin. He has accused them of diverting resources away from his fighters and taking credit for the Wagner Group‘s battlefield successes in the Ukraine fight, the Moscow Times said.

The company’s critics inside the Russian military have told President Vladimir Putin that any Wagner Group victories come only after it threw thousands of recruited prisoners to their deaths on Ukraine’s front lines, according to Bloomberg, which cited people close to the Kremlin and Russia’s intelligence services.

Mr. Putin cut off the Wagner Group from its supply of Russian prisoners, transferring that authority to the defense ministry, Bloomberg said. But, thousands of Russian convicts who fought for Mr. Prigozhin are likely to be pardoned and released in the coming weeks, according to British intelligence officials.

Prisoners were offered commutation of their sentences after six months of service. While at least half were killed or wounded on the battlefield, evidence suggests Russia is following through on its promise to free recruits who completed their contract, British officials said this week.

“The certificates issued to freed Wagner veterans claim to have been endorsed by the decree of President Putin. With Wagner now likely banned from recruiting more prisoners, this exodus will worsen its personnel problems,” British intelligence officials said in an assessment posted on Twitter.

Also, the sudden influx of violent ex-prisoners with recent and often traumatic combat experience will likely pose a “significant challenge” for Russian society, British officials said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide