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US believes Wagner mercenary group is increasing affect and took supply of North Korean arms | CNN Politics

US believes Wagner mercenary group is increasing affect and took supply of North Korean arms | CNN Politics


Newly downgraded US intelligence suggests the Russian mercenary group Wagner has assumed expanded affect and is recruiting convicts – together with some with severe medical situations – from prisons to complement Moscow’s flagging navy.

The group lately took supply of arms from North Korea, a high US official mentioned, an indication of its rising position within the struggle in Ukraine.

And the US believes Wagner might be locked in an influence battle with the Russian navy itself because it jockeys for affect with the Kremlin.

“In sure situations, Russian navy officers are literally subordinate to Wagner’s command,” mentioned John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator on the Nationwide Safety Council. “It’s fairly obvious to us that Wagner is rising as a rival energy middle to the Russian navy and different Russian ministries.”

The revelations in regards to the Wagner group got here a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic go to to Washington, the place he thanked america for its navy help and mentioned extra was wanted to fend off Russian advances.

Wagner has emerged as a key participant within the 10-month battle. The group is usually described as President Vladimir Putin’s off-the-books troops. It has expanded its footprint globally since its creation in 2014, and has been accused of struggle crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the US utilized new restrictions on Wagner’s entry to know-how exports.

Kirby mentioned the US estimates Wagner presently has about 50,000 personnel deployed inside Ukraine, of which 40,000 might be convicts recruited from Russian prisons. He mentioned the group was spending $100 million monthly to fund its operations in Ukraine.

The group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has even traveled personally to Russian prisons to recruit convicts himself to go to the entrance traces and battle. A few of them endure from “severe medical situations,” Kirby mentioned.

“It appears as if Mr. Prigozhin is prepared to only throw Russian our bodies into the meat grinder in Bakhmut. In actual fact, about 1,000 Wagner fighters have been killed within the combating in simply current weeks, and we consider that 90% of these 1,000 fighters have been, actually, convicts,” Kirby mentioned.

Prigozhin, who has typically been known as “Putin’s chef,” already has shut ties to the Russian president. However Kirby prompt he was working to strengthen these ties by way of his efforts to bolster Russian forces by way of his mercenary recruitment.

“It’s all about how good he seems to be to Mr. Putin, and the way nicely he’s regarded on the Kremlin,” he mentioned. “In actual fact, we’d go as far as to say that his affect is increasing.”

Final month, Wagner obtained a supply of infantry rockets and missiles from North Korea, Kirby mentioned, a sign of how Russia and its navy companions proceed to hunt methods round Western sanctions and export controls.

Wagner, not the Russian authorities, paid for the tools. The US doesn’t consider it should considerably change the battlefield dynamic in Ukraine – however prompt North Korea might be planning to ship additional materials.

Prigozhin mentioned Thursday that Kirby’s claims that his group took weapons deliveries from North Korea are “nothing greater than gossip and hypothesis.”

“Everybody is aware of that it’s been a very long time since North Korea has equipped weapons to the Russian Federation,” Prigozhin mentioned in a press release printed on his Telegram channel. “And no different such makes an attempt have even been made. Subsequently, these arms deliveries from the DPRK are nothing greater than gossip and hypothesis.”



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