Putin’s Wagner Group scrambling to fill personnel losses by recruiting convicts to fight

Russia has suffered great losses in both equipment and personnel since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The UK Ministry of Defence released an update detailing Russia’s high ranking losses and as of July 17 stating Russia reportedly suffered 50,000 killed or wounded soldiers since the beginning of the invasion.

The intelligence update from the MoD stated: “The poor performance of Russia’s armed forces during its invasion of Ukraine has been costly for Russia’s military leadership, highly likely resulting in dismissal of at least six Russian commanders since the start of hostilities in February 2022.”

It continued: “The commanders of Russia’s Eastern and Western Military Districts have highly likely lost their commands.

“General-Colonel Aleksandr Chayko was dismissed as Commander of the Eastern Military District in May 2022

“General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev, who has commanded the Western Military District since 2018, was absent from Russia’s Navy Day in St Petersburg on July 31 2022 and has highly likely been replaced by General-Lieutenant Vladimir Kochetkov.”

The update added: “General Aleksandr Vladimirovich Dvornikov has subsequently been removed after been given overall command of the operation in Ukraine, and General Sergei Surovikin has assumed command of the Southern Grouping of Forces from General Gennady Valeryevich Zhidko.

“The dismissals are compounded by at least 10 Russian Generals killed on the battlefield in Ukraine.

“The cumulative effect on consistency of command is likely contributing to Russian tactical and operational difficulties”

Following such a challenging battle, a Kremlin insider dubbed ‘Putin’s chef’ took tours of Russian prisons with a mission to recruit 1,000 convicts for his Wagner Group, it has been reported.

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The convicts will be trained and sent to the front lines to fight Ukraine, according to a Russian opposition website.

The Verstka website worked alongside Russian Sitting, a charity which helps families of convicts, and they reported that the paramilitary group encouraged 1,000 criminals from across 17 prisons to fight in Ukraine.

In response, the convicts will supposedly receive a salary of 200,000 rouble (£2,700) per month, a presidential pardon and in the event of their death fighting for Russia, their family will receive a ‘coffin payment’.

The website reported: “Three prisoners told human rights activists that businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin was allegedly coming to the colony.”

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The inmates told the activists that the recruiter was looking for those in good physical condition and “refuse elderly people and those with serious illnesses”.

They “show interest in those convicted for murder and robbery” and the inmates selected complete basic training and then go to Donbas in Eastern Ukraine.

It added that “those inmates in prison for drug and sex offences are normally not selected”.

The offer to inmates to escape their sentence by “fighting for the motherland” has been labelled the offer too good to be true with Russia Sitting warning that the promises are not legally binding, and the group should not be trusted.

Russia Sitting said: “We can advise relatives, if possible, to convey the risks to their loved ones and try to dissuade them from accepting the offers of mercenary recruiters.”