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Kremlin takes over functions of Prigozhin's group - British intelligence

Kremlin takes over functions of Prigozhin's group - British intelligence Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russia's leader Vladimir Putin (Photo: Getty Images)

One year ago, on June 24, 2023, the late Yevgeny Prigozhin led 8,000 mercenaries of the Wagner Group in a "March of Justice" against the senior command of the Russian armed forces, accusing them of corruption and dereliction of duty, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

The summary noted that several high-ranking military commanders were later arrested on corruption charges. "Whilst a particular target of Prigohzin's scorn, the ex-Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has since been replaced," the UK Ministry of Defense stated.

Although Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash on August 23, 2023, the Wagner Group survived him. According to the report, it is now led by his son, Pavel Prigozhin, and commanded by Anton Lotos Yelizarov.

British intelligence reports that the Wagner Group withdrew from the front lines in Ukraine in May 2023. They were replaced by irregular formations of the Chechen and Russian Мolunteer Сorps from the Ministry of Defense. The Russian Ministry of Defense's African Corps replaced Wagner's deployments in Syria and Libya at the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, respectively. However, the Wagner Group maintains independent deployments in Belarus, Mali, and the Central African Republic.

Additionally, Prigozhin pioneered the practice of recruiting prisoners for service in Ukraine. From July 2022 to February 2023, when the Russian Ministry of Defense took over this practice, the Wagner Group recruited over 48,000 prisoners, more than 17,000 of whom later died in combat. Since February 2022, the number of prisoners in Russia 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," the UK Ministry of Defense noted.

Prigozhin's rebellion

The Wagner Group fighters' rebellion on June 24, 2023, became the most serious challenge to Vladimir Putin's authority since 1999. Prigozhin's men quickly took control of Rostov-on-Don and moved towards Moscow. Security forces either remained silent or supported the rebellion. Putin himself fled from Moscow.

The rebellion was suppressed due to an agreement brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Prigozhin was eliminated on August 23 when his plane was blown up.