Wagner mercenaries ‘look to refocus on Africa after suffering huge losses in Ukraine
Russia’s Wagner group is reportedly now turning its focus to Africa after suffering heavy losses in Ukraine amid the mercenary group boss’ fall-out with Vladimir Putin.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the group, has been in a long-running dispute with the Kremlin, particularly with defence minister Sergei Shoigu. He has accused Shoigu of blocking the supply of ammunition and personnel to his private military group.
Prigozhin and his mercenary group are currently battling in Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Fighting in the area has raged for eight months, producing some of the bloodiest and longest battles of the war.
The brutal conflict has seen Prigozhin lose thousands of men from the frontline, either killed or wounded. Many of the convicts who signed up to join the ranks of the Wagner group have also been pardoned after serving six months in the military. Prigozhin has reportedly been banned by the Kremlin from refreshing troops with more prisoner recruits.
The change of tact from Wagner follows reported fears within the Kremlin that Prigozhin could try and unite his mercenaries to turn on Putin and seize power in Russian outskirt regions following the war in Ukraine.
News of the Wagner group’s shift of focus – reported by Bloomberg who cited sources close to the matter – will likely concern Moscow after Kyiv said they were now ready to launch a fresh counter-attack on war-torn Bakhmut.
The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said: ‘The attacker has not lost hope of taking Bakhmut at all costs, despite the losses of men and equipment, very soon we will take advantage of this opportunity, as we did near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk.’
Prigozhin has been publicly critical of Russia’s army and military leadership. He has previously lambasted and discredited top army officials and anyone else in his way, angering many in the Russian government who want him reined in.
But while they have claimed successes in towns like Soledar, Popasna and Lysychansk, the group has been losing troops rapidly. As many in its criminal ranks are freed, it is unknown as to how much power Prigozhin’s men will continue to wield in the war.
Amid the fighting in Bakhmut, Prigozhin has continued to demand that the Kremlin supply him with ammunition, reinforcements and further support.
Defence minister Shoigu is understood to be in particular disagreement with Prigozhin over strategy despite the Wagner boss bringing success on the battlefield and spearheading the assault on Bakhmut.
Delivery of ammunitions was reportedly halted earlier this month before they could reach Prigozhin and his Wagner group in Bakhmut, stifling any military advancement.
Earlier this month, Prigozhin said that his forces will have to ‘reset and cut down in size’ after significant losses in the war-torn city.
But now Wagner is openly recruiting personnel to fulfill contracts it has in Africa. The group has been recruited to protect mines and provide security for government services. The group is seeking applicants for nine to 14-month stints in Africa.
On his Telegram channel, Prigozhin denied Bloomberg’s reports that Wagner was looking to retreat from Ukraine.
‘It seems that Bloomberg knows better than we do what we are going to do.
‘As long as our country needs us, we will remain fighting in Ukraine,’ he wrote.