A significant number of ex-Wagner fighters are taking part on the ongoing and hugely costly Russian assault of on the town of Andiivka but their situation is “good but not great” due to heavy losses, according to reports.
In an interview with a Russian military correspondent earlier this week, the commander of the Russian “Arbat” Separate Guards Special Purpose Battalion said that an element of the unit is composed almost entirely of former mercenaries.
The Russian report put a positive spin on the fighters’ performance, saying in a Telegram post accompanying the video: “At the moment, the guys are working in the direction of Avdiivka and, as practice shows, they are successful!”
But the commander in the interview was more reserved, describing the battalion’s situation on the front line as “good but not great” due to large losses of personnel.
The Institute for the Study of War wrote in its’ daily assessment on Saturday: “The correspondent also indicated that the Arbat Battalion is part of the Russian Armed Forces, and it is likely that the brigade consists of former Wagner personnel who signed military contracts directly with the Russian MoD following Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion and or his death.”
It's likely the real situation facing the former Wagner mercenaries is far worse than either the Russian media or the commander have described.
The toll on Russian troops has been huge as they try to take Avdiivka – in a call with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this week, President Zelensky said Moscow had lost an entire brigade.
“Russia will continue to try to occupy the entire Donbas,” he said. “The invaders made several attempts to encircle Avdiivka, but our soldiers stopped them and pushed them back each time, inflicting painful losses.
“In these attempts, the enemy lost at least a brigade.” A military brigade can consist of anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers. Zelensky’s claim has been backed up by the White House which on Thursday said Russian had lost “thousands” of troops, showing “no regard for the lives of its soldiers” and even executing those who refuse to fight.
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