Putin’s military ‘falling apart’ as president turns to mercenaries

Putin 'facing serious problems inside Russia' says Kurt Volker

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to be in an increasingly desperate situation as Ukraine’s momentum continues. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s President, saw his troops take back the city of Kherson last week — just the latest boost for the Ukrainians. They have made good progress in their counteroffensive, also advancing in the east and near the city of Kharkiv in recent months.

Now, former British army officer, Sir Simon Mayall, has painted a bleak picture of the Russian military’s prospects in the war. He says it is “falling apart”, but cautions that Ukraine still has a long way to go before it can claim victory.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “There are quite a lot of Ukrainian troops to the east of the Dnieper river, but there is quite a lot of Russian firepower. Zelensky has been quite good at managing expectations throughout the war, I think he can see at a tactical and operational level that the momentum is in Ukraine’s favour.

“Things are falling apart very badly for the Russians. But we should not get too optimistic. We might get lucky, there might be a complete collapse of morale in the Russian forces, but we just need to manage expectations.”

Mr Mayorall also looked at Russia’s attempts to turn the tide in the war. After Putin’s men lost towns and villages near Kharkiv in September, he announced a mobilisation of the population to help bring in more troops.

But these men are untrained, and so Putin has also turned to mysterious military mercenaries for extra help. 

The most high-profile of these is the Wagner Group, founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin-ally who had previously denied any involvement with the group before later confirming he had created it.

Mr Mayorall spoke about the Wagner Group and the role it could now play in the war in Ukraine. He said: “The regular army has been decimated, the conscript army we know to be poorly motivated, equipped and trained. Therefore Putin is summoning up mercenaries like the Wagner Group who are a sort of private security, military company and are firmly aligned with the Russian regime.

“They are people who are killers…guns for fire with a brutal ethos of their own. Probably many of them are ultra-nationalist Russians who feel this mystical attachment to trying to save Russia from humiliation.”

It has been widely reported that the Wagner Group is already in Ukraine. Its mercenaries have been accused of aiding the Russian military in committing horrendous war crimes documented in previously occupied territory.

Just this week, Prigozhin was forced to deny that his men were involved in the execution of one of its own fighters. This comes after a video was shared on social media by an account linked to Wagner. In the unverified footage, a man is killed after being accused of switching sides to “fight against the Russians”.

The man, Yevgeny Nuzhin, is heard saying: “I got hit over the head and lost consciousness and came around in this cellar. They told me I was to be tried”. He was then hit with a sledgehammer.

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A spokesperson for Prigozhin said that the video should be called, “A dog receives a dog’s death”. They added: “Nuzhin betrayed his people, betrayed his comrades, betrayed consciously.”

But Prigozhin baselessly claimed that Nuzhin was killed by the US, saying in a statement: “I asked Wagner employees whether they abducted Evgeny Nuzhin and if they participated in his torture. None provided information of participating in his abduction or torture.

“For me, it is very clear that Nuzhin was abducted and violently killed by agents of the US intelligence services.”

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