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Russian mercenary group Wagner may lose thousands of fighters

A mural depicting mercenaries of Russia's Wagner Group that reads: "Wagner Group - Russian knights" vandalised with paint on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
A mural depicting mercenaries of Russia's Wagner Group that reads: "Wagner Group - Russian knights" vandalised with paint on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. Copyright Darko Vojinovic/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Darko Vojinovic/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Daniel Bellamy with ANSA
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In the coming weeks the Russian mercenary group Wagner could lose most of the prisoners it recruited into its ranks as their military contracts expire.

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In the coming weeks the Russian mercenary group Wagner could lose most of the prisoners it recruited into its ranks as their six-month military contracts expire.

Analysis by the US Institute for the Study of War, citing British intelligence, estimates thousands of convicts recruited in the autumn of 2022 will be pardoned and released, in keeping with a promise by the head of the mercenary group. 

The UK Ministry of Defence predicts this will significantly weaken Wagner, which is already struggling after the Kremlin banned it from recruiting any more prisoners.

For months the group has been fighting a bloody battle for Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine which some argue is of little strategic value, but is increasingly symbolic importance.

To listen to Sasha Vakulina's full report, please click on the player icon above.

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