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UK intel: Russia’s prison population drops by 150,000 amid war recruitment since 2022

One year after Prigozhin’s rebellion, Russia’s Wagner Group operates under new leadership with altered deployments, while Russian military adopts Wagner’s prisoner recruitment tactics for Ukraine, leading to decreased prison population, per UK intelligence.
Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group. Photo: Yevgeny Prigozhin via Telegram
UK intel: Russia’s prison population drops by 150,000 amid war recruitment since 2022

One year after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed rebellion against the Russian military high command, the Wagner Group continues to operate under new leadership, while its influence on Russian military strategy remains evident, according to UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence update.

According to the report, Wagner maintains independent deployments in Belarus, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Meanwhile, Russia’s Ministry of Defense adopted Prigozhin’s practice of recruiting prisoners for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The British Defense Ministry wrote:

  • One year ago, on 24 June 2023, the late Yevgeny Prigozhin led over 8,000 Wagner personnel on a ‘march for justice’ against the Russian military’s high command, accusing them of corruption and dereliction of duty. Russia has subsequently arrested several high-profile military leaders on accusations of corruption. Whilst a particular target of Prigohzin’s scorn, the ex-Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, has since been replaced.
  • Although Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a 23 August 2023 plane crash, his ‘Wagner Group’ Private Military Company has survived him, now directed by his son Pavel Prigozhin and commanded by Anton “Lotos” Yelizarov. The Wagner Group withdrew from the frontlines in Ukraine during May 2023, being replaced by Chechen and Russian MOD Volunteer Corps irregular forces. Whilst in Africa, the Russian MOD’s Africa Corps replaced Wagner’s deployments in Syria and Libya in late 2023 and early 2024 respectively. Wagner nevertheless maintains independent deployments in Belarus, Mali and the Central African Republic.
  • Prigozhin pioneered the practice of recruiting prisoners to serve in Ukraine. From July 2022 until February 2023, when the Russian MOD took over the practice, Wagner recruited over 48,000 prisoners, over 17,000 of whom were subsequently killed in action. Since February 2022, Russia’s total prison population has decreased by at least 150,000. It is likely that a majority of these prisoners were released in exchange for agreeing to fight in Ukraine.

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