The Russians apparently won the Battle of Soledar primarily thanks to the brutal “Group Wagner”. Possibly with a bitter aftertaste for the mercenaries. The group, headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, is said to have suffered such heavy losses that its future is uncertain.
For weeks there was fighting over the small town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine. Finally, on January 14, the aggressor Russia declared its capture of the city, although this has not yet been confirmed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that his mercenaries in particular were responsible for the victory. Many observers suspect that by taking Soledar, Prigozhin wanted to strengthen his influence over the Russian Defense Ministry.
But now the heavy losses may even have endangered his position, writes military historian Chris Owen on Twitter. He refers to reports from a Russian telegram channel.
It says that Prigozhin traveled to St. Petersburg, where President Vladimir Putin is currently staying. The future of the “Wagner Group” should be discussed here, if possible with Putin personally. There were also indications of a planned incorporation of the mercenaries into the Russian military.
Apparently the situation in Soledar is not as secure as Prigozhin claims. “Russia’s Defense Ministry troops are so widely dispersed in Soledar that it’s not certain who they’re blocking: Group Wagner or the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” reports Owen. “That doesn’t exactly look like a win.” Accordingly, the “Wagner Group” also had considerable problems replacing their own losses. Prigozhin had expected to be provided with so-called “500s” (conscientious objectors to war) for his mercenary troupe. However, this has not happened so far.
“New attacks have started, but right now it feels like poking around with a spoon at the bottom of an empty pot,” the Russian source said. However, Prigozhin promised to discuss the problems directly with “the top” of Russian politics.
Prigozhin kept cheering for his men, but they felt that he had lost confidence in his own position. Chris Owen expects that Prigozhin will now shift his focus from the battlefield to his information policy. From now on, the main work must be done by the people who are responsible for media reporting, in order to put the image of the “Wagner Group” back in the right light.
At the same time, the mercenaries are obviously worried about their future. “Everyone prays that they don’t have to repeat everything in Bachmut – the losses compared to Soledar would be gigantic.” At the same time, there is still a shortage of ammunition and grenades. Likewise, not all mercenary troops could be deployed in Bakhmut, since a fierce battle was being fought for the city of Kreminna at the same time. Nevertheless, the Russian sources still sound confident: “We are waiting for the big mobilization, after that everything will be clarified.”
Wagner – Putin’s Secret Army: An Insider’s Account