Putin faces army revolt after Wagner accused of ‘killing’ conscripts
Russian Wagner soldiers appear to attack their commander
Russian conscripts have reportedly gone “missing” after refusing to sign contracts to fight with the private militia group Wagner. Wagner mercenaries have been involved in the heavy fighting to seize control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The battle for the city has raged since last August and has seen both sides sustain heavy casualties.
In particular, Wagner units have seen their numbers decimated and are now desperately seeking recruits to cover their shocking losses.
US security officials estimated in February that about 9,000 Wagner troops have been killed and 21,000 wounded – with half of those occurring since the middle of December 2022.
Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin previously toured Russian prisons in an attempt to recruit inmates to his private militia.
However, in February he announced that Wagner had “completely stopped” its prison recruitment programme.
Now it appears that the militia boss is trying to force Russian conscripts to serve in the ranks of his mercenary group, with rough justice meted out to those who refuse.
The wives of Russians recently recruited into the army have told the independent news outlet Astra that their men were transported from a military camp in Rostov-on-Don to the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine.
Around 150 out of the original group of 500 soldiers were then taken to the railway repair plant in Stakhanov on April 6.
To their surprise, they were met by some 30 Wagner armed representatives who tried to force them to sign contracts with the mercenary group.
One conscript told his mother in a phone call: “There are 150 of us here, locked up at the rail repair plant. We were stupidly sold. We did not agree to this.”
Another said: “We don’t have a choice. Those who said ‘no’- have already been taken away.
“I don’t know what is happening to them now. These ‘Wagner’ people arrived.
“You see, they don’t give a fuck, they’ll (kill) us now and throw us into the field and that’s it.”
Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that its forces were engaged in “unprecedented” bloody battles with Russian units led by Wagner in Bakhmut.
Officials insisted that Ukrainian forces were still holding on in the besieged city, despite Russian claims of further gains on Friday.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command, told the 1+1 television channel: “Bloody battles unprecedented in recent decades are taking place in the middle of the city’s urban area.
“Our soldiers are doing everything in bloody and fierce battles to grind down [the enemy’s] combat capability and break its morale.
“Every day, in every corner of this city, they are successfully doing so.”
Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed Wagner units had succeeded in securing two areas on the northern and southern outskirts of the city.
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Paratroopers were providing support to Wagner units on their flanks, as they sought to make further inroads.
Analysts at the UK’s Ministry of Defence wrote in their Friday bulletin that Ukrainian forces had been forced to make an orderly retreat from some parts of the city, as Russians stepped up artillery bombardment of their positions.
They wrote: “Russia has re-energised its assault on the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut as forces of the Russian MoD and Wagner Group have improved co-operation.
“The Ukrainian defence still holds the western districts of the town but has been subjected to particularly intense Russian artillery fire over the previous 48 hours.
“Wagner assault groups continue to conduct the main advance through the centre of town, while Russian airborne forces (VDV) have relieved some Wagner units securing the northern and southern flanks of the operation.
“Ukrainian forces face significant resupply issues but have made orderly withdrawals from the positions they have been forced to concede.”
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