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Bloomberg: Wagner may scale back Ukraine operations, shift to Africa

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 23, 2023 4:11 PM 2 min read
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After facing multiple setbacks on the Ukrainian frontline, Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin might be turning his focus to Africa, Bloomberg reported on March 23.

Bloomberg references "people familiar with the situation" who believe that Prigozhin's decision may be driven by his complaints over insufficient weaponry for Wagner mercenaries and the inability to achieve notable progress in Bakhmut over the past eight months.

Prigozhin claimed on March 19 that the Russian mercenary group would have an additional 30,000 recruits by mid-May. However, he provided no evidence for this.

Western intelligence is suggesting that the battle of Bakhmut might soon be nearing its end. The U.K. Defense Ministry said in its March 22 intelligence update that there was a "realistic possibility" that Russia is losing its momentum in Bakhmut and that the Russian Defense Ministry was transferring regular military units to other sectors.

The battle of Bakhmut has been raging in Donetsk Oblast for the past eight months, with heavy losses suffered on both sides. However, Ukrainian forces continue to hold the city.

The Wagner group recruited thousands of prisoners from across Russia, promising them freedom if they survived six months on the battlefield. Although approximately half of them have been killed or wounded, others are allegedly set to be pardoned and released.

A U.K. official said during his speech in Vienna on March 15 that Russian military leaders have sacrificed military units and squandered strategic resources for small tactical gains.

"Russia is suffering extremely heavy casualty rates," military advisor Ian Stubbs said. "Since May last year, between 20 – 30,000 Wagner and regular Russian forces have been killed and wounded in the area around Bakhmut alone – a huge loss of human life for a total territorial advance of approximately just 25 kilometers."

The U.K. estimated that this is over 800 Russian personnel killed or wounded for each kilometer gained, the vast majority of them being Wagner fighters.

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