- The Wagner Group is trying to recruit from Russia’s military, the Institute for the Study of War said.
- It’s “increasingly desperate for manpower” after heavy losses in Ukraine, the think tank said.
- The group has feuded with the military, but now seems desperate for its troops, per the ISW.
Russia’s pro-Kremlin paramilitary Wagner Group is trying to poach soldiers from the country’s traditional armed forces, with it increasingly “desperate for manpower” after heavy losses in Ukraine, according to experts.
Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said in an update on Sunday that the “Wagner Group may be attempting to force mobilized Russian personnel to sign contracts with Wagner, possibly in an effort to offset Wagner’s losses in Ukraine.”
This comes after Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, publicly feuded with Russia’s traditional military leadership, and with the group suffering heavy losses in battles in eastern Ukraine.
The Institute for the Study of War said that this latest recruitment drive, which would involve seeking soldiers who have often only received the poor training that the Russian army is giving its newest soldiers, suggests that “Wagner is increasingly desperate for manpower as it continues to conduct highly attritional offensive operations in and around Bakhmut.”
Earlier this year the group lost its ability to recruit directly from Russian prisons, leaving it short of means to replace battlefield losses.
Wagner had previously offered pardons in exchange for six months of service in Ukraine, although many men didn’t make it back alive.
The Wagner group, which has thousands of mercenaries and recruited prisoners fighting in Ukraine, has, in recent months, been leading Russia’s assault on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
That battle is considered the longest-running and bloodiest so far in the invasion of Ukraine, with Western officials estimating that, as of early last month, between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured in the city.
US Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that the battle had turned into a “slaughter-fest” for Russian forces.
The Institute for the Study of War noted that Wagner and regular Russian military forces have recently started working more closely together in their bid to take Bakhmut.
The country’s Ministry of Defense does allow mobilized soldiers to fight with Wagner, but it’s unclear what happens to those who have done so, the think tank said.
It also listed evidence for Wagner trying to recruit regular soldiers, including a public complaint that the group was alleged to have forced 170 mobilized personnel to sign contracts with it, with geolocated footage from earlier this month showing it detaining personnel and taking them to an “unspecified training ground.”
Independent Russia media outlet Astra also reported last week that dozens of Russians draftees claimed to have been locked in a factory and forced at gunpoint to sign contracts with the Wagner Group.