February 2, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Prigozhin and company: the brutal tactics of PMC Wagner in Ukraine

How effective are the actions of the Wagnerites in Ukraine and is it difficult to resist them? Prigozhin said last week that his company is probably “the most experienced army in the world today.”

In an article titled “Deadly and Disposable: Wagner’s Brutal Tactics in Ukraine Revealed by Intelligence” edition of CNN talks about the tactics and effectiveness of PMC Wagner. The publication notes that the fighters of the Wagner group act as disposable infantry of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. However, a Ukrainian military intelligence document obtained by CNN shows how effective they are in the Bakhmut area and how difficult it is to deal with them.

Wagner, a private military contractor run by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been in the spotlight in recent weeks as he stands out on the front lines and quickly takes credit for the achievements of the Russian military. Wagner fighters actively participated in the capture of Soledar, located northeast of Bakhmut, and the areas around the city.

From Ukrainian reports from December last year, it can be concluded that Wagner is a unique threat in close combat, even if he suffers huge losses in doing so. The report claims:

“The death of thousands of Wagner soldiers is of no importance to Russian society. Assault groups do not retreat without a team … Unauthorized withdrawal of a group without injury is punishable by execution on the spot.

This is also evidenced by intercepted telephone conversations, the recording of which the publication received from a source in Ukrainian intelligence. In one of them, for example, a soldier says about another soldier who tried to surrender: “The Wagnerians caught him and cut off his damn balls.” The call was said to have been made in November, but CNN cannot independently confirm its authenticity.

Prigozhin said last week that his company is probably “the most experienced army in the world today.” According to the Ukrainian military, wounded Wagner soldiers often remain on the battlefield for several hours:

“Assault infantry is not allowed to independently carry the wounded from the battlefield, since their main task is to continue the assault until the goal is reached. If the assault fails, retreat is only allowed at night.”

While Prigozhin himself often displays a brutal indifference to casualties, Ukrainian analysts argue that Wagner’s tactics are “only effective against the poorly trained mobilized troops that make up the majority of Russia’s ground forces.” It is possible that the Russian army is even adapting its tactics to become more like Wagner: “Instead of the classic battalion tactical groups of the Russian Armed Forces, assault units are being proposed.”

According to interceptions of telephone conversations by intelligence, some of the mobilized are thinking about moving to PMCs. In one such conversation, a soldier pits Wagner against his unit: “It’s bloody heaven and earth. So if I’m going to serve, dammit, I’d rather serve there.” The Ukrainian report says that Wagner is deploying its forces in mobile teams of about a dozen or fewer, using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and real-time drone reconnaissance, which the report describes as a “key element.”

Former prisoners, tens of thousands of whom are recruited by PMCs, often make up the first wave of attacks. They have the heaviest losses, according to Ukrainian officials, up to 80%. More experienced fighters come in the second wave, with night vision devices and thermal imagers. If the Wagner men manage to get into position, with artillery support they dig trenches and consolidate their gains, but they are very vulnerable to attacks in open areas. And again, judging by the intercepts, there is often a lack of coordination between Wagner and the Russian military.

Prigozhin has repeatedly stated that his fighters are responsible for the capture of Soledar, which was the first achievement of the Russian military in several months. He stated last week: “No units were involved in the assault on Soledar, except for Wagner PMC operatives.

Founder Wagner’s speech is Prigozhin’s path to more resources, and he plays a major role in his ongoing battle with the Russian military establishment, which he has often criticized as inept and corrupt. Gerasimov has been appointed commander-in-chief of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine amid growing criticism of its erratic progress. As long as the Russian Defense Ministry is inefficient, Prigozhin will be on its heels and demand more resources for Wagner.

Although the group seems to be able to obtain weapons in other ways as well. Last week, U.S. officials, including National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, said that Wagner was buying weapons from North Korea:

“North Korea supplied infantry rockets and rockets to Russia last month for use by Wagner.”

Prigozhin is clearly not devoid of ambition. Last week, speaking in Soledar, he said that Wagner is probably “the most experienced army in the world today.” And he noted that his forces already have multiple launch rocket systems, their own air defense systems and artillery. The founder of the PMC, CNN notes, also drew a subtle comparison between Wagner and the downward brutality of the Russian military, stating:

“Everyone who is on earth is being listened to. The commanders consult with the fighters, and the leadership of the PMC consults with the commanders. That is why the Wagner PMC has moved forward and will continue to move forward.”

Two months ago, Andrey Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, compared Prigozhin’s growing influence to that of Grigory Rasputin at the court of Tsar Nicholas II:

“Putin needs military effectiveness at any cost. AT [Пригожине] there is a negative diabolical charisma, and in a sense, this charisma can compete with Putin’s. Putin needs him now in this capacity, in this form,” he told the Current Time TV channel.

Prigogine, apparently, was intrigued by the comparison with Rasputin. But in comments published by his company Concord, he had his typical twist:

“Unfortunately, I don’t have stable blood flow. I bleed the enemies of our Motherland. And not by spells, but by direct contact with them.”

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