Rivalry between the leader of the Wagner private military company Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Russian Defense Ministry was likely a key factor behind the termination of Wagner’s prisoner recruitment scheme, the British Defense Intelligence posted in its daily update.
“On 09 February 2023, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin stated that Wagner had halted its prisoner recruitment scheme.
Data from the Russian Federal Penal Service had already suggested a drop-off in the rate of prisoner recruitment since December 2022. News of the harsh realities of Wagner service in Ukraine has probably filtered through to inmates and reduced the number of volunteers.
A key factor in the termination of the scheme is likely increasingly direct rivalry between the Russian Ministry of Defence and Wagner. The regular Russian military has likely now also deployed the vast majority of the reservists called up under ‘partial mobilisation.’
The Russian leadership faces the difficult choice of either continuing to deplete its forces, scale back objectives, or conduct a further form of mobilization.”
The British Defense Intelligence had previously reported that rivalry between factions of the Russian elite had led to a decline in recruiting convicts to Wagner PMC.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner founder and financier, had riven to political influence within Russian political circles due to the unit’s role in assaulting Ukrainian forces in Donbas. Most recently, the unit relied on “human wave” tactics, where convicts were essentially used as cannon fodder to expose Ukrainian positions for elite Wagner fighters.
“The situation was reaching the point of absurdity sometimes… When a [recruited soldier of Russian] Wagner [units] crawls up to a dead comrade, uses him as a shield, pushes and advances towards our positions,” a Ukrainian soldier fighting in Bakhmut explained in an interview.
However, British intelligence earlier cited anecdotal evidence from Ukrainian combatants indicating a reduced Russian reliance on human wave-style assaults by Wagner convict fighters in critical sectors.
As previously stated, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine served a notice of suspicion to the head of the Wagner PMC, Evgeny Prigozhin. He has been charged with numerous war crimes against Ukraine.