Ukrainian soldier tells CNN that Wagner Group has returned to Bakhmut
A Ukrainian soldier has told CNN that Wagner Group mercenaries have returned to Ukraine and are participating in the fighting near Bakhmut.
“Yes, ‘Wagner’ is also here. They came back, they swiftly changed their commanders and returned here,” the soldier, named Groove, said.
He suggested that Wagner Group might have appeared in the area due to a shortage of Russian army personnel. “Russia gathered troops from surrounding areas and brought them here. They don’t have m personnel left here,” the soldier added.
Wagner Group’s return to Bakhmut was previously reported by Russian pro-war Telegram channels. On September 23, the Telegram channel Grey Zone, which is associated with Wagner Group, wrote that the mercenaries “will now move in the direction of Bakhmut.” The channel also claimed that these are mercenaries who refused to participate in the rebellion led by Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin in June. “I assure you that this organization has nothing to do with Wagner Group, no matter what is said on its behalf,” wrote the channel.
On September 26, the Telegram channel Rybar, which is close to Russia’s Defense Ministry, reported that “[Wagner Group] units began to return near Bakhmut to conduct a counter-offensive on previously lost positions.” The channel also clarified that this is a group of mercenaries, “which broke away from the main [Wagner Group] forces after the mutiny.”
Agenstvo reported that the Ukrainian soldier’s statement was the first report of Wagner Group returning to Ukraine by the Ukrainian military.
Later, Ilya Yevlash, spokesperson of the Eastern Group of Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, confirmed the soldier’s statement to RBC Ukraine.
“These are Wagner Group soldiers who were in Belarus. Now, they’re disbanding their camps there. There were almost 8,000 of them. Now, part of these fighters have left for Africa, while others have renegotiated contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry and have returned here to take part in combat operations,” Yevlash told the publication.
According to him, the Russian command plans to bring a total of about 500 Wagner Group fighters to participate in the war in Ukraine.