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ISW: Wagner boss rise in decline after failure to take Bakhmut
Private mercenary Wagner Group boss appears to be on the outs with the Kremlin after failing to make good on repeated promises of capturing Bakhmut in Donestk Oblast with his troops, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update.
The Wagner Group is Russia's most high-profile mercenary group and was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, Putin confidant, and former convict. Along with the Russian military, the group has taken part in the battles for both Soledar and Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk Oblast. Wagner is known for its human rights abuses all over the world.
According to the D.C.-based think tank, "Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had likely turned to Prigozhin and Prigozhin’s reported ally, Army General Sergey Surovikin, to continue efforts to gain ground and break the will of Ukraine and its Western backers to continue the war after the conventional Russian military had culminated and, indeed, suffered disastrous setbacks."
"Putin apparently decided to give Prigozhin and Surovikin a chance to show what they could do with mobilized prisoners on the one hand and a brutal air campaign targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure on the other. Both efforts failed, as Prigozhin’s attempts to seize Bakhmut culminated and Surovikin’s air campaign accomplished little more than inflicting suffering on Ukrainian civilians while expending most of Russia’s remaining stocks of precision missiles."
Prigozhin was using reports of the mercenary group's gains in and around Soledar in Donetsk Oblast as a way to promote the Wagner Group's reputation as an effective fighting force, the ISW wrote in an earlier update.
Any hopes that Prigozhin may have had to seriously challenge the Russian Ministry of Defense and General Staff, headed by Sergey Shoigu and Army General Valeriy Gerasimov, "now seem to have been delusional," the ISW wrote.
As a result of an offensive operation in January, Russian forces managed to break through Ukrainian defenses and take over Soledar. Russia hopes to use the gain to encircle the nearby Bakhmut, but as the ISW has previously assessed, gaining control of Soledar will not necessarily lead to Ukraine's swift collapse in Bakhmut.