Home Europe Russia-supporting Wagner Group mercenary numbers soar

Russia-supporting Wagner Group mercenary numbers soar

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Fighters from Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group have ballooned from 1,000 to nearly 20,000 in Ukraine, British government officials say, a sign of Russia’s growing reliance on the military contractor in support of its invasion.

Russia is widely believed to be struggling to recruit soldiers and maintain morale. The West estimates Russia has lost tens of thousands of soldiers and President Vladimir Putin launched a recruitment drive in September to boost numbers.

Meanwhile, Russia has suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield and UK officials believe Russia is turning to the Wagner group as a consequence. The private military company is now actively promoting its role in the war. As is its main backer, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man once known as Putin’s chef. But, so far, Wagner’s bark seems to be proving worse than its bite.

The BBC has been briefed by UK officials who’ve been tracking the activities of the Wagner Group. They say the group is now playing a much higher profile role in the war in Ukraine. But officials add that Wagner has also traded “quality for quantity” and is now facing the same challenges and losses on the battlefield as the wider Russian military.

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