Washington — Russian mercenaries with combat experience in Syria and Libya are preparing to play an increasingly active role in the stage of the war in Ukraine, which Moscow currently says is a top priority. : Battle in the east of the country.
The number of mercenaries deployed to Ukraine from the Wagner Group, a civilian military force associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is expected to more than triple to at least 1,000 fighters from about 300 just before the invasion. It has been. US officials said Friday. Officials added that the mercenaries will focus on defeating Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbas region of the country, where Russian-backed separatists have been at war since 2014.
Dispatching credible Russian mercenaries to support a central part of Russia’s aggression has reorganized a month-long military operation to flag Mr Putin’s original goals could not be achieved so far. It emphasizes the Kremlin’s efforts to focus, said US and other Western officials.
Russian troops have lowered war ambitions on Friday, suggesting that they may be focusing on the eastern region of Donbus, but military analysts said the move constitutes a meaningful change. He said he still doesn’t know if it’s a trick to divert attention prior to the attack.
Wagner is best known among Russian mercenary groups, has become more formal over the years, and behaves like a Western military contractor.
“The Wagner Group is a Russian private military contractor,” said Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby this week. “We know they are interested in increasing their footprint in Ukraine.”
Wagner fighters have gained military experience in the Middle East conflict and have served as security advisors to various governments, including the Central African Republic, Sudan, and more recently Mali. Although they are loosely associated with the Russian army, their activities at a distance allow the Kremlin to try to distract responsibility each time the fighter’s behavior is scrutinized.
Emphasizing how serious Wagner is about its role in the conflict in Ukraine, Wagner’s senior leaders themselves could be placed in the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist outposts to coordinate their efforts on behalf of Russia. Expected, US officials said on anonymous terms to discuss confidential operational assessments.
Wagner has not only relocated some of the Libyan and Syrian mercenaries to Ukraine, but also the cannons, air defenses and radar used by the group in Libya, officials said. The Russian Army supports these movements by providing military freighters for the movement of personnel and equipment.
Compared to the more than 150,000 troops that Putin gathered at the Ukrainian border and eventually sent to the country, the number of Wagners is small, but their presence was in 2014 when Putin deployed Kremlin. Russian mercenaries, primarily Russian veterans, show that they are taking pages from the playbook of the rebel fighter in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier this year, Western intelligence detected the first small group of Wagner mercenaries who left Libya and Syria and arrived in Russia-controlled Crimea. From there, they invaded the territory of the rebels.
However, their first performance on the battlefield was clearly ominous as they faced more severe resistance than expected from Ukrainian soldiers. As many as 200 Russian mercenaries were killed as of late February, according to US officials.
The original purpose of deploying mercenaries was controversial. Some European and American officials said mercenaries were on the territory of rebels to engage in sabotage and false flag operations aimed at pretending that Ukrainian troops were attacking civilian targets. Said it was placed.
Russia-Ukraine War: Significant Progress
However, Ukrainian military officials said that shortly before the invasion began, mercenaries were brought in primarily to fill the separatist class, making it appear that local fighters were in control.
Mercenaries now have a more direct combat and leadership role in eastern Ukraine, US officials said.
In 2017, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Wagner Group founder Dmitry Utkin for his role in recruiting soldiers to join the separatist forces in Ukraine. In 2021, Wagner mercenaries based in the Central African Republic killed civilians, plundered homes, and shot deadly worshipers at mosques, according to a UN report.
A few years ago, Syrian Wagner fighters, in collaboration with the Syrian army of the pro-government, cannon on U.S. commands at desert bastions in an attempt to occupy oil and gas fields that were apparently protected by Americans. Fired a barrage of. In response, Americans called for airstrikes that killed 200 to 300 people.
In both cases, the Russian government denied involvement.