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Russian weaknesses exposed further by Wagner conflict during Ukraine’s counteroffensive


[As the tumultuous dispute between Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, and Russia’s top military brass erupted into open conflict, resulting in a march towards Moscow, a mutiny of mercenaries, and exile in Belarus, the war in Ukraine continued unaffected. On Saturday, five people were killed when debris from a Russian missile struck a building in Kyiv, while Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south resulted in the liberation of another 6.5 square miles of land from Russian occupation. Although the feud within Wagner has not yet had a direct impact on Ukraine’s counteroffensive, experts believe that in the long term, it will harm Russia. According to military analyst Ian Matveev, the Russian army lost a significant and combat-ready unit equivalent in size to a brigade, which will be crucial in future battles in the south. A senior Ukrainian official, speaking anonymously, suggested that the recent chaos in Russia would likely affect the battlefield, though the exact details remain uncertain. Prigozhin claims that his troops rebelled because the majority did not want to be absorbed into the regular Russian military as ordered. Prigozhin believes that such a move would lead to a complete loss of combat capability. The Wagner Group has traditionally played a significant role in the battle for the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk; however, since their capture of the city in May, the group has handed over responsibility for its defense to Russia’s regular military. Analysts believe that the recent armed rebellion and chaos within Wagner have not had any immediate tactical ramifications in Ukraine. If part of Wagner’s troops were to withdraw from Ukraine, it would exacerbate Russia’s shortage of skilled fighters, as many of its best soldiers have already been killed and replaced by conscripts or convicts. Russia is estimated to have around 200,000 troops in Ukraine, and there are doubts as to whether it has enough soldiers to hold the fortified front lines. Wagner’s troops are not considered the best soldiers, but their presence is sizeable, and Russia barely has enough troops to hold its current line. It remains to be seen if Wagner’s troops will remain in Ukraine and join the regular military, another private military group, or a voluntary unit. The ultimate outcome will depend on the loyalty of Wagner’s top troops to Prigozhin and their willingness to leave the fight in Ukraine for other opportunities. The full impact of the recent events is still uncertain, as they have occurred rapidly and there is inherent inertia within the Russian system.


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