Russian Wagner soldiers appear to attack their commander
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The Wagner Group is sending its convict recruits into Ukrainian fire on “sacrificial reconnaissance missions”, it has been claimed. The private military organisation led by Vladimir Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin is helping the Russian military fight Ukrainians on the battlefield.
In September, video footage showed Prigozhin appearing to recruit Russian prisoners to go and fight in the war.
Now, Ukrainian soldiers believe that these convicts are being used as cannon fodder.
War reporter Julius Strauss described this tactic of the Wagner Group while speaking on the Battleground Ukraine podcast.
He said: “The Russian army doesn’t seem to be supporting Wagner very well. That goes to the rivalry between the two.
“There was talk of Wagner having less and less artillery and using more and more traditional infantry tactics. The infantry tactics themselves are very specific, they go back to almost this second world war Stalin-type punishment battalion.
“What Wagner seems to have been doing is taking the convicts from the prisons and pushing them forward in waves, and these waves of convicts are taking huge losses.
“I spoke to a Ukrainian soldier who said, in a way, it’s brilliant because nobody cares. Ukrainians obviously don’t care if Russian convicts are killed, but nor do the Russians care.
“There’s no sympathy for them whatsoever, so it is politically free. Even if thousands of these people get killed it doesn’t cost the Kremlin anything politically.
“The Ukrainian I spoke to said it’s ingenious what Priogozhin is doing because he has free men to lose. They can do things with these men that a regular army couldn’t do.
“For example, they would send forward half a dozen convicts on a sacrificial reconnaissance mission. Wagner would sit at the back with binoculars and watch where fire comes from. They are quite happy for none of these six men to come back again.”
On Thursday, Prigozhin released a statement in which he said prisoners are no longer being recruited.
He said: “We have completely discontinued the recruitment of prisoners into Wagner PMC. Those who work for us now are fulfilling all their obligations.”
It has been reported that Wagner signed up between 40,000 and 50,000 prisoners from jails across Russia.
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The Guardian has spoken to people in a Russian town who have watched a convict return to his home as a reward for his six months of service with Wagner.
Convicted thief and murderer, Anatoly Salmin, surprised those in his hometown Pikalevo when he returned.
One local resident said: “We started seeing him in town a few weeks ago. He is a dangerous man, we all know what he did to his friend.
“I told my kids not to run around alone in the coming days. It wasn’t just what he did to his friend, he stole from people, got in many fights and was harassing girls. He drank a lot, used drugs and was violent.
“We don’t want such people back in Pikalevo. What kind of hero is he?”
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