The New York Times (NYT) reported on the 24th (local time) that only 10,000 of the 50,000 troops of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary group, are currently fighting in Ukraine.
Olga Romanova, head of Russian prisoner rights group Russia Behind Bars, appeared on Russian TV line broadcast in the Netherlands on the 23rd and said that 40,000 Wagner mercenaries have deserted, surrendered, been wounded or killed.
The Wagner group has played a large role in fighting in eastern Ukraine, and human rights groups have accused Russia of illegally using prisoners to secure its scarce troops.
In September, a video was released in which Putin aide Evgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group, promised prisoners amnesty in exchange for six months of service in the war in Ukraine. He had warned at the time that he would be shot if he deserted.
The evaluation of Russia’s behind-the-scenes bath is similar to that of John Kirby, head of the Strategic Communications Coordinator at the White House National Security Council (NSC), last month. Kirby said 50,000 Wagner Group troops are fighting in Ukraine, of which 10,000 are mercenaries and 40,000 are prisoners.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement earlier this month that Russia was using large numbers of prisoners to produce munitions.
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On the 20th, the White House designated the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal group and imposed sanctions.
“Our message to the companies helping the Wagner Group is simple,” Kirby said. Wagner is a criminal organization that oppresses human rights in many places.”