Putin scrapes bottom of barrel as shady mercenaries called in to replace DECIMATED forces

Putin wasn't 'told the truth' about Ukrainian resistance says expert

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The notorious Wagner Group, a private militia force that the Kremlin denies being linked to, has been known to operate in Ukraine since 2014. Operating in conflict zones around the world, they have been accused of a score of human rights abuses.

This comes as Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, denounced Russia’s war effort as failing in many different areas.

The MoD has previously said Putin’s regime had turned to “non-traditional recruitment”, filling up Wagner’s ranks with convicts languishing in St Petersburg’s prisons.

But in its daily intelligence update on Friday, the MoD said the personnel shortages felt sorely by the Russian command meant the Wagner mercenaries were taking on new, unorthodox responsibilities.

The MoD described the Wagner Group’s involvement in the Ukraine war, concentrated in the eastern region, since the beginning of the invasion.

At this point, they had worked alongside the conventional Russian military forces.

But as Russia suffers from heavy infantry losses, the shady militia has taken on the function of Moscow’s army, the MoD detailed.

Such a tactic both “undermines” the Kremlin’s insistence on denying its links to the Wagner Group, and is “highly unlikely” to make any real difference to the Russian war effort.

The MoD wrote on Twitter: “Since March, Russian private military company (PMC) Wagner Group has operated in eastern Ukraine in coordination with the Russian military.

“Wagner has likely been allocated responsibility for specific sectors of the front line, in a similar manner to normal army units.

“This is a significant change from the previous employment of the group since 2015, when it typically undertook missions distinct from overt, large-scale regular Russian military activity.

“This new level of integration further undermines the Russian authorities’ long-standing policy of denying links between PMCs and the Russian state.

“Wagner’s role has probably changed because the Russian MoD has a major shortage of combat infantry.

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“However Wagner forces are highly unlikely to be sufficient to make a significant difference in the trajectory of the war.”

Within Russia, it is thought the Wagner recruitment drive is being sold as an opportunity for “travel and friendship”.

It is the first time the hiring of recruits for the murky military company has been an open process.

The MoD said earlier this month: “Russian Armed Forces’ personnel shortages may be forcing the Russian MOD to turn to non-traditional recruitment.

“This includes recruiting personnel from Russian prisons for the Wagner Private Military Company.

“If true, this move likely indicates difficulties in replacing the significant numbers of Russian casualties.”

According to US intelligence released earlier this week, Russia has lost more than 75,000 fighters in Ukraine since February.

This staggering number – equivalent to almost the entire British army – means that Russia has committed around half of its total army to the invasion effort.

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