According to British intelligence experts, the Russian mercenary group Wagner is increasingly filling the gaps in the invasion of Ukraine. The Wagner fighters probably played a central role in recent battles, for example in the capture of the cities of Popasna and Lysychansk, according to the daily intelligence update on the Twitter account of the Ministry of Defense in London on Monday.

The British experts assume that the mercenary force suffered heavy losses. This leads to lower recruitment standards for new combatants, including convicted criminals and previously rejected applicants. These new recruits would only receive very limited training, which would likely reduce the force’s effectiveness and thus its value as a support for the Russian military.

Videos of the Wagner Group’s recruitment efforts in prisons have recently been circulating on social media. For many experts, this is a clear indication of a personnel shortage within the Russian army. The mercenary group is considered an elite unit and is of great importance for Russia from a military-strategic point of view.

The fact that Wagner soldiers are used directly at the front for attrition battles is unusual and documents the tense personnel situation, says Russia expert András Rácz from the German Society for Foreign Relations.