Why Putin may be trying to 'weaken' a 'paramilitary mercenary' group he hired to fight in Ukraine: report

Why Putin may be trying to 'weaken' a 'paramilitary mercenary' group he hired to fight in Ukraine: report
image via Creative Commons.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has turned out to be much more difficult than President Vladimir Putin anticipated. But over a year after Russian forces launched their invasion, Putin is not giving up. And he has been taking desperate measures.

One is recruiting prisoners and convicts to fight in Ukraine. Another is using the Wagner Group, a paramilitary mercenary outfit that operatives outside of Russian law. Technically, private military contractors are illegal in Russia, but Putin has gotten around that with the Wagner Group because the fighting is not taking place within Russian borders.

According to Business Insider's Sinéad Baker, however, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has "become highly critical of Russia's military leadership." And the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington D.C.-based think tank, believes that Putin is now using fighting in Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine to weaken Wagner.

READ MORE:Vladimir Putin cracks down on dissent as ally threatens nuclear war

“The battle for the eastern Ukrainian city has become one of the bloodiest of Russia's invasion," Baker explains in an article published on March 13. "And the Wagner Group, which has tens of thousands of mercenaries and former prisoners deployed in Ukraine, is heavily involved in the fighting. In an update on Sunday, (March 12), the ISW said that Russia's defense ministry is likely using the battle to significantly reduce the Wagner Group, as a feud between them escalates."

According to Baker, the ISW believes that Russian officials are "likely seizing the opportunity to deliberately expend both elite and convict Wagner forces in Bakhmut in an effort to weaken Prigozhin and derail his ambitions for greater influence in the Kremlin."

Putin, Baker reports, has "started to distance himself from Prigozhin." And ISW believes that Prigozhin is carrying out "a relentless defamation campaign" against the Russian military.

READ MORE: Vladimir Putin planning 'a very slow destructive campaign' as Ukraine war enters second year: report

Read Business Insider's full report at this link.

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