Wagner forces no longer significant in Ukraine, US sayson July 14, 2023 at 1:23 am

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The Pentagon comments come three weeks after the mercenaries’ failed mutiny in Russia.

Wagner members pictured in a military vehicle in Rostov-on-Don during the group's failed mutinyImage source, AFP

The Wagner mercenary group is no longer “participating in any significant capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine”, a Pentagon spokesperson has said.

It comes weeks after the group’s 24-hour mutiny in Russia – a challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority.

Wagner is thought to have helped Russia annex Crimea in 2014, and has fought some of its bloodiest recent battles.

It was instrumental in capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut for Russia.

Under the deal that ended the June rebellion, Wagner fighters were told they could join the regular Russian army or head to Belarus with their chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

But earlier this week, the Kremlin said that Mr Putin had met Prigozhin in Moscow only days after the mutiny.

Mr Putin insists he made his offer clear to the fighters during that meeting.

Speaking to Russian daily Kommersant on Thursday, he said they could have chosen to “continue their service” for the Russian regular military.

“They would have been led by the person who had been their real commander all that time,” he continued, in an apparent reference to himself.

He also stressed there was no legal framework for private military organisations. Putting it bluntly, he said: “Wagner does not exist.”

Earlier in the day, US President Joe Biden told a news conference in Finland that Mr Prighozin should be careful of poisoning following the uprising.

“God only knows what he’s likely to do. We’re not even sure where he is and what relationship he has [with Mr Putin]. If I were he, I’d be careful what I ate. I’d keep my eye on my menu,” Mr Biden said.

Speaking after a summit with Nordic leaders in Helsinki, Mr Biden also said there was no possibility of Mr Putin winning the war in Ukraine.

“He’s already lost that war,” he said.

Mr Biden said the Russian president would eventually “decide it’s not in the interest of Russia, economically, politically or otherwise to continue this war. But I can’t predict exactly how that happens.”

He also expressed the “hope and expectation” that Ukraine would make enough progress in its current counter-offensive for there to be a negotiated peace settlement.

But over one month into the long-planned Ukrainian counter-offensive, some Ukrainians and their allies are expressing concerns over the slow progress of Kyiv’s troops.

Others believe that Russia’s defences will eventually shatter, allowing Ukraine to seize strategically significant territory and to advance towards Russian-seized Crimea.

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Ukraine has long asked Western allies to provide more military assistance to help its resistance against the Russian invasion.

Although it did not get a solid timeframe for Nato membership at a recent summit in Lithuania, it did receive from G7 members a long-term security framework to help guard against Russian aggression.

On Thursday, Ukrainian army commander Oleksandr Tarnavskyi told US broadcaster CNN that the military had received the first consignment of cluster munitions promised by the US in a controversial move.

He stressed that they would make a difference to Ukraine’s fortunes on the front line. “We just got them, we haven’t used them yet, but they can radically change [the battlefield],” Mr Tarnavskyi said.

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