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Wagner Group tries to ‘undermine’ competition with ‘acerbic’ rebuttal

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Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group is trying to undermine private military companies (PMCs) affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Defence through the use of sources, a think tank said.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that Russian and Belarusian sources have slammed as false and a “dream” rumours commanders at the Wagner Group have transferred to Redut PMC.

Redut, a private military company focused on the protection of Russian companies’ commercial operations, has been previously criticised by both Wagner founder Mr Prigozhin and sources affiliated to the mercenary group “over the backdrop of Wagner’s tensions with the Russian MoD during the Battle of Bakhmut”, the ISW said.

Denying allegations Wagner commanders are joining Redut’s ranks, the sources stressed instead these paramilitary chiefs are “continuing to fulfill tasks” required by their leadership roles.

In its latest assessment of the Russian military campaign in Ukraine, the ISW said: “The acerbic responses of many Wagner-affiliated channels to the allegation that some Wagner commanders may be transferring to ‘Redut’ suggests that Wagner sources have a continued interest in undermining various MoD-associated organs.

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“As ISW reported on August 14, the Russian MoD appears to be struggling to consolidate control of other PMCs associated with Russian businessmen and enterprises, and likely hopes to maintain a grasp on ‘Redut’ despite rhetorical attacks by Wagner affiliated channels.”

The think tank added that while Mr Prigozhin is very outspoken on matters regarding Wagner in Africa, he is currently refraining from commenting on the war in Ukraine.

This, the ISW said, may indicate that the warlord is “following imposed limitations on his involvement – even rhetorically – with the war in Ukraine”.

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Mr Prigozhin led the attempted coup against the MoD leadership in late June.

Following the intervention of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Mr Prigozhin reportedly agreed to go into exile in Belarus in exchange for his and his men’s impunity.

Thousands of the paramilitary group’s members have since relocated to Belarus, sparking concerns among neighbouring Lithuania and Poland.

The latter has positioned near the border with Belarus 10,000 additional troops after Mr Lukashenko suggested Wagner men wanted to conduct a campaign against Warsaw.

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The Polish Defence Ministry also claimed in early August two Belarusian helicopters had entered the country’s air space, further raising tensions.

Prior to the mutiny against the Russian MoD, Mr Prigozhin was vocal in his criticism of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

During the months-long Battle of Bakhmut fought also by Wagner men, the warlord accused the defence leaders of leaving soldiers without ammunitions and being culpable for the unsatisfactory course of the war in Ukraine.

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