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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Wagner Group is trying to pay Ukrainians to join them in Bakhmut: Official

The private Russian military operation Wagner Group has reportedly started offering payments to Ukrainians to fight for them as their relationship with the Kremlin deteriorates.

Founded and led by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner is a mercenary force that has had a heavy presence in the ongoing Ukraine conflict and has been accused in the past of working at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In recent months, their forces have been heavily involved in the battle for Bakhmut, a town in the contested Donetsk region that is being defended by Ukrainian soldiers from encroachments under Russian control. While the city’s strategic value has been questioned by some, Ukraine maintains that its defense is vital.

However, reports have surfaced recently that suggest Wagner Group’s relationship with the Russian government is strained, causing the company to face recruitment difficulties. According to an independent Kyiv report on Monday, Wagner has allegedly started offering Ukrainian citizens payment to join them.

The claim comes from Ivan Federov, mayor of the Ukrainian-controlled city of Melitopol, who claimed in a recent news program that he had heard about Wagner’s attempts to pay residents of his city to join her struggle. The offer is reportedly 200,000 Russian rubles, or around $2,600 a month, to fight for the private military group. Previous reports from Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine have mentioned similar tactics.

Federov’s claims cannot be independently corroborated at this time, although they are similar to other accounts of Wagner’s status. Newsweek emailed the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.

A Monday report by the UK Ministry of Defense repeated claims about Wagner’s recruitment problems, claiming that the group is “most likely targeting recruitment efforts at free Russian citizens”. This change allegedly stems from the group’s increasingly frayed relationships with defense leaders in the Kremlin, which previously allowed it to recruit from Russia’s prison population and offer prisoners a commutation sentence for six months of service in Ukraine. Prigozhin had previously accused the Russian defense minister of treason and claimed that they were holding back supplies of ammunition to Wagner forces fighting in Bakhmut.

These new efforts reportedly involved recruitment centers being set up at sports venues, while Wagner officials allegedly encouraged high school students to join them.

“In recent days, masked Wagner recruiters have also been conducting career interviews at Moscow high schools and handing out questionnaires titled ‘Application from a Young Warrior’ to collect the contact details of interested students,” the ministry report said.

news week turned to defense experts for more insight.

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