Russian state TV pundit admits ‘things aren’t going well’
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Vladimir Putin has appointed a notorious Russian gangster to head up a Wagner military unit, as he desperately attempts to turn his fortunes around in Ukraine. The Russian President has seen his army take an absolute battering on the battlefield, suffering a quick succession of humiliating defeats over the last month. Ukraine’s army stunned the Kremlin with its devastating counterattack on the Kharkiv front, forcing the Russians to retreat in disarray.
Kyiv’s commanders have kept up the pressure and continue to make substantial gains, as they eye retaking the Donbas.
Over the weekend, Lyman was captured, opening the way for further advances towards Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk.
In an attempt to stop the rot, Putin has reportedly turned to a notorious mafia leader to help shake things up on the front lines.
Reports claim that Sergei Butorin has been installed as the commander of a Wagner motorised rifle unit.
Butorin was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of 38 murders by a Moscow court in 2011.
He rose to power in the “Wild West” of 1990s Russia, where he ran protection rackets for the notoriously violent Orekhovo gang.
The gangster is said to have undergone plastic surgery and organised his own funeral in Russia to make authorities believe he had been killed.
He fled Russia, but was eventually arrested for weapons smuggling in Spain in 2001.
The Wagner Private Militia has acted as a shadow army for the Kremlin and has been deployed to Africa, Syria and also Ukraine.
Its origins have been shrouded in mystery, with some experts claiming it to be the brainchild of a former Russian intelligence officer, Dmitry Utkin.
However, last week Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman and close Putin ally, admitted he had founded the militia to help Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
He said in a statement posted on the website of his catering company, Concord: “I cleaned the old weapons, sorted out the bulletproof vests and found specialists who could help me with this.
“From that moment, on 1 May 2014, a group of patriots was born, which later came to be called the Wagner Battalion.
“I am proud that I was able to defend their right to protect the interests of their country.”
Videos of Prigozhin touring penal colonies in Russia in order to recruit convicts for Wagner have often been circulated on social media.
The private militia has promised to quash prisoners’ convictions in exchange for military service in Ukraine.
It comes as the death of a renowned henchman of the Wagner founder was confirmed in recent days.
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The investigative community InformNapalm said Oleksii Nachin was killed near Bakhmut in September.
He was one of the top commanders of the militia and had seen action in Chechnya, Syria and Georgia, as well as Libya.
InformNapalm wrote on their Telegram channel: “Prigozhin’s henchman ‘Terek’ was liquidated in Ukraine.
“According to a number of information resources, on September 20, 41-year-old commander of the ‘PMC (Wagner)’ assault detachment Alexei Nagin, call sign ‘Terek’ was killed in Ukraine near Bakhmut.
“Nagin was a ‘veteran’ of military operations in Chechnya, Georgia, Donbass, Syria and Libya.”
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