A Ukrainian intelligence report shows how Wagner Group fighters, although considered expendable, were effective in the fight for Bakhmut. The Russian mercenary group was heavily involved in the intense fighting at Soledar in the Donets region.
The December report, obtained by CNN, concludes that the group around Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin poses a strong threat, despite the high number of victims. “Russian society doesn’t care about the deaths of thousands of Wagner soldiers. Attacking parties will not retreat without orders. A team’s unauthorized withdrawal or no injury is punishable by execution on the spot,” the document reads.
Injured party members often remain on the battlefield for hours. “Assault infantry are not entitled to carry the wounded off the battlefield alone, as their main task is to continue the charge until the objective is reached. If the attack fails, retreat is only allowed during the night,” the report adds.
In addition to casualty indifference, the Ukrainian analysis points out that the Wagner group’s tactics “are the only ones that prove effective for poorly trained troops in the field, who make up the majority of Russia’s ground forces”. What’s more, the Russian army may even adapt these tactics to become more like the Wagner group. “Assault units are proposed instead of the classic tactical battalion groups of the Russian Armed Forces,” the report said.
Organized in mobile squads of about a dozen, Wagner fighters use rocketpropelled grenades and are exploring the use of realtime drones, which the document describes as a “key element.” They also use communications equipment from Motorola, a company that assured CNN it has suspended all sales to Russia and has ceased operations in the country.
The high number of casualties is due to the fact that in most cases prisoners form the first wave of attacks. More experienced and better protected fighters follow, for example with night vision goggles. Major General Isidro Pereira had previously told Expresso that members of the group which has recruited tens of thousands of prisoners are being “launched in waves to the front lines of Ukraine’s defense positions” and are acting as “cannon fodder”.
For the Ukrainian Armed Forces, drones are key to avoid being “overwhelmed” by grenade attacks. The report recounts an incident in December in which a drone spotted an advancing Wagner ensemble, allowing Ukrainian defenses to eliminate them before the shells were fired.
Intelligence services also point out that artillery support allows them to dig trenches if Wagner forces manage to take a position, but these are vulnerable to attack in open terrain and there is often a lack of coordination between group members and the Russian military .
On January 11, Prigozhin announced the capture of the city of Soledar, which Ukraine did not recognize. Two days later, the Russian Ministry of Defense declared victory. “No unit other than Wagner was involved in Soledar’s capture,” Prigozhin assured. The leader added that the group is now probably “the most experienced army in the world” and will “keep moving forward” with its own resources.