Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian Ministry of Defence to replace the Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group convict troops with the Kremlin’s own Storm-Z punitive battalions and Chechen special forces. The surviving prisoners from the so-called Storm-Z companies are reportedly being transferred by Russia to strengthen their Volunteer Corps, according to Ukrainian military intelligence.
A special commission headed by Major General Oleg Polguev, the deputy chief of staff of the Russian occupation troops in Ukraine, has been set up by the military leadership of the Russian Federation to help with this.
According to intelligence assessments, the commission has ordered the training of about 2,000 members of the “special contingent” at designated training facilities in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory.
The recruits will then be sent to the conflict zone
The members of Polguev’s Special Commission are subject to increased security measures in the Ukrainian territory that are under occupation, and representatives of the Russian Federation’s military police will keep an eye on prisoner volunteers’ behaviour.
The press service of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said: “In practice, the occupation units [Storm-Z companies – ed.], equipped with the so-called ‘special contingent’, showed extremely low combat capability.
“Alcoholism, looting, and desertion flourish among the invading convicts, including through catastrophic losses.”
Approaching the deadline for Russian volunteer formations, which is widely perceived as targeting the Wagner mercenary group, Prigozhin stated on Sunday that 32,000 former prisoners had returned home after completing their contracts with Wagner in Ukraine.
According to Prigozhin, among those who returned home, 83 crimes were committed, which he claimed was significantly lower compared to the number of crimes committed by individuals released from prison during the same period without any involvement with Wagner.
This news comes as earlier this month, there was reports of tensions boiling over between two militia rivals – Wagner and Chechnya’s Akhmat special forces.
Wagner chief, Prigozhin, casually remarked that he was unsure of what Chechnya’s special forces were doing in Ukraine – the implication being they were having an easy time of it, while his militia had borne the brunt of the fighting on the frontlines.
Prigozhin personally visited Russian prisons to recruit fighters, offering pardons to those who survived a six-month tour of frontline duty with Wagner.
In a recent interview, Prigozhin disclosed that he had recruited 50,000 convicts, with approximately 10,000 of them losing their lives in Bakhmut.
Russia and Ukraine are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counteroffensive, British officials said Sunday.
Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, U.K. military officials said in their regular assessment.
According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province.
While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances,” it said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.
The Ukrainian military said in a regular update Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours, Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.
According to the statement by the General Staff, Russia continues to concentrate its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing attacks around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Lyman in Donetsk province, with 26 combat clashes taking place.