Wagner’s brutal tactics in Ukraine revealed in intelligence report
Wagner Group fighters have become the disposable infantry of Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine, but a Ukrainian military intelligence document obtained by CNN shows how effective they have been near the town of Bakhmut and how difficult it is to fight.
Wagner is a private military contractor run by oligarch Yevgeny Prigogine, who has been seen on the front lines in recent weeks and is always quick to complain about Russian advances. Wagner’s fighters were heavily involved in the capture of Soledar and the suburbs, a few miles northeast of Bakhmut.
A December 2022 Ukrainian report concludes that Wagner poses a unique threat at close range, despite extreme losses. “The death of thousands of Wagner soldiers is not important for Russian society,” the report said.
“Assault squads do not leave without orders. . . . Leaving a squad without permission or injury is punishable by death on the spot.”
Wiretaps obtained by a Ukrainian intelligence source and shared with CNN also reveal a brutal attitude on the battlefield. In one, a soldier is heard talking about another who was about to surrender to the Ukrainians.
“The Wagnerians caught him and cut off his balls,” said the soldier.
CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of the call, which is believed to have taken place in November.
Wagner’s wounded soldiers often remained on the battlefield for hours, according to Ukrainian estimates. “Assault infantry are not allowed to carry wounded off the battlefield on their own, as their primary duty is to continue the attack until the objective is reached.” If the attack fails, retreat is also allowed only at night.
Despite Prigozhin’s own callous indifference to casualties, the Ukrainian analysis suggests that Wagner’s tactics were “only effective against the ill-trained mobilized forces that made up the bulk of Russia’s ground forces.”
This suggests that the Russian military may even adapt tactics like Wagner, saying that “assault units are recommended instead of the classic battalion tactical groups of the Russian Armed Forces.”
This would be a significant departure from the traditional Russian reliance on large mechanized installations.
Locally, according to wiretapping by Ukrainian intelligence services, some mobilized troops are considering defecting to Wagner. During one of these roadblocks, a soldier confronted Wagner against his unit and said, “This will destroy heaven and earth. Therefore, if I want to serve, it is better to serve there.
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The Ukrainian report said Wagner would deploy his forces in mobile groups of a dozen or fewer, use rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and use real-time reconnaissance from drones, which the report described as a “key element.”
Another tool available to Wagner soldiers is the use of communications equipment manufactured by Motorola, according to the document.
Motorola told CNN it has halted all sales to Russia and closed operations there.
Convicts — tens of thousands of whom were recruited by Wagner — often make up the first wave of attacks and take the heaviest casualties, up to 80 percent, according to Ukrainian officials.
Experienced fighters with thermal imaging and night vision equipment.
For the Ukrainians, their drones are very important to prevent the trenches from being overwhelmed by grenade attacks. The document recounts an incident in December when Wagner’s group was spotted by a drone, which allowed Ukraine’s defense forces to destroy it before its troops could fire RPGs.
If Wagner’s forces could hold a position, artillery support would allow them to dig trenches and consolidate their gains, but these foxes are extremely vulnerable to attack in the open. Again – on the Ukraine blockade – coordination between Wagner and the Russian military is often lacking. In an intercepted call — again unverifiable — the trooper told his father that his unit had pulled over Wagner’s vehicle by mistake.
Prigozhin has repeatedly said his fighters were responsible for last week’s capture of the town of Soledar and nearby towns, Russia’s first victory in months. “No unit other than Wagner PMC agents were involved in the capture of Soledar,” he said.
Wagner’s art is Prigogine’s path to more resources and plays an important role in his ongoing battle with the Russian military establishment, which he has often criticized as incompetent and corrupt.
According to British intelligence, the head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, ordered better training of soldiers. Prigogine replied: “War is not a time for the unshaven, but for the active and courageous.”
Commenting on Gerasimov’s new restrictions, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Monday: “Russian forces continue to suffer operational gridlock and heavy losses; Gerasimov’s emphasis on minutiae may confirm the fears of many of his skeptics in Russia.
Gerasimov was appointed commander-in-chief of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine earlier this month.
With the Russian Ministry of Defense running low, Prigogine demands more resources for Wagner.
The group also appears to be able to obtain weapons in other ways. US authorities said last week that Wagner obtained the weapons from North Korea. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “Last month, North Korea delivered missiles and cruise missiles to Russia for use by Wagner.”
Prigogine is not without ambition. As he stood in Soledar last week, Wagner said he might have “the most experienced army in the world today.”
According to him, his forces have several missile launchers, their own air defense and artillery.
Prigogine also subtly contrasts Wagner and the top-down brutality of the Russian military, saying that “everything is heard in the field. Commanders consult with soldiers, and PMK (private military company) leaders consult with commanders.
“That’s why Wagner PMC has moved forward and will continue to move forward.”
Two months ago, Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, compared Prigogine’s growing influence to that of Grigory Rasputin at the court of Tsar Nicholas II. “Putin needs military effectiveness at all costs,” he told Current Time TV.
“There is a nasty evil charisma [Prigozhin], and in some ways this charisma can rival Putin’s. Now Putin needs him in the same quality, in the same form.
Prigogine seems to have been interested in comparing the Tsar’s son with Rasputin, a mystical figure who cured his son of hemophilia. But in comments released by his Concord company over the weekend, he took his own typical twist.
“Unfortunately, I won’t stop the bleeding. I made the enemies of our homeland bleed. And not through prayer, but in direct contact with them.
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