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Tags: russia | ukraine | putin | wagner | mercenary

White House: Putin Utilizing Mercenary Group


By    |   Thursday, 22 December 2022 03:35 PM EST

The White House on Thursday said Russian President Vladimir Putin is utilizing Wagner, a Russian contract-mercenary group, 10 months into his invasion of Ukraine.

According to national security spokesman John Kirby, the White House estimates that Wagner has 50,000 personnel deployed to Ukraine, made up of 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts from Russian prisons.

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the owner of Wagner, has been recruiting convicts from prison to fight because Russia has been experiencing recruiting issues. Some of the prisoners have "serious medical conditions," said Kirby.

Prigozhin is expending more than $100 million per month to fund Wagner's operations in Ukraine, fighting alongside Russians.

"It's pretty apparent to us that Wagner is emerging as a rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian ministries," Kirby said.

Kirby also said North Korea finished its arms delivery to Wagner with the contractor making payment for the equipment. The delivery follows one last month from North Korea consisting of infantry rockets and missiles.

"North Korean officials have said publicly that they would not support Russia's war in Ukraine — and yet here they are delivering arms to Wagner, in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions," Kirby said.

Kirby said the U.S. plans to raise violations from North Korea with the Security Council.

The Department of Commerce also plans to designate Wagner as a military end user so that it cannot access equipment anywhere in the world. Kirby said more will come "in the coming weeks."

Kirby said Wagner has played a "major role" in the eastern city of Bakhmut, which was visited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the day before his trip to Washington on Wednesday. Bakhmut experienced significant shelling for weeks.

About 1,000 Wagner fighters have been killed in the fight for Bakhmut, and 90% were convicts, Kirby said.

"Wagner is on the ground playing a significant role there where its ill-equipped and ill-trained forces are, quite frankly, suffering heavy casualties. It seems as though Mr. Prigozhin is willing to just throw Russian bodies into the meat grinder in Bakhmut," Kirby said.

Kirby said Prigozhin's motivations lie within power and his association with Putin.

"For him, it's all about how good he looks to Mr. Putin and how well he's regarded at the Kremlin, and, in fact, we would go so far as to say that his influence is expanding," Kirby said. "Wagner's independence from the Russian defense ministry has only increased and elevated over the course of the 10 months of this war."

Zelenskyy visited Congress on Wednesday and met with President Joe Biden, who vowed to help Ukraine for "as long as it takes."

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The White House on Thursday said Russian President Vladimir Putin is utilizing Wagner, a Russian contract-mercenary group, 10 months into his invasion of Ukraine.
russia, ukraine, putin, wagner, mercenary
Thursday, 22 December 2022 03:35 PM
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