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UK Defense Ministry: Last Wagner convict contracts ending soon, fighters to be released

by Martin Fornusek July 21, 2023 10:43 AM 2 min read
A Wagner Group mercenary pictured in Russia's Rostov, on June 24, 2023
A Wagner Group mercenary pictured in Russia's Rostov, on June 24, 2023. The mercenary group's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed on June 24 that his forces control all military sites in the city. (Photo by ROMAN ROMOKHOV/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Wagner Group is likely going to release the last of its recruited convicts from mandated service and offer them contracts, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on July 21.

London said that the Russian Defense Ministry has taken over the process of recruiting prisoners. Bloomberg reported on July 5 that Moscow plans to offset the loss of Wagner fighters by enlisting convicts and Chechens.

As the ministry noted, the reinforcements drawn from Russia's prisons enabled Moscow to take the city of Bakhmut, albeit at the cost of 20,000 convicts killed in battle.

It also made the Wagner Group into a force capable of challenging the Russian government during their rebellion on June 23-24, the analysis added.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko allegedly helped broker a deal for Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and his troops to relocate to Belarus after their short-lived insurrection.

Minsk later confirmed that the Wagner Group's contractors are assisting with the training of Belarusian soldiers and released footage of joint exercises near the Belarusian-Polish border. According to the State Border Guard Service, their presence does not represent a military threat to Ukraine.

Based on the information provided by the Pentagon, the mercenaries stationed in Belarus are being reintegrated into the Russian military.

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