Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian paramilitary organisation Wagner group, said on Saturday that the organisation is aiming to recruit approximately 30,000 new fighters by the middle of May.
In a voice message on telegram he mentioned that recruitment centres for the Wagner group which had been opened in 42 Russian cities were recruiting members consistently at a rate of 400-800 people a day.
The Wagner Group is largely considered a de facto private army of the Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The group came into notoriety in the Donbas war in Ukraine wherein it assisted pro-russian separatists in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The group was also involved in the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. The structure of the organisation is that of a private military company and operates outside the boundaries of Russian law as private military contractors are technically illegal in Russia.
The group has also been known to lend its contractors out to other conflicts around the world. Including conflicts like the civil war in Libya and Mali.
Since the start of the Russo-Ukraine war, the Wagner group has been working hand-in-hand with the Russian military and is often used in areas where plausible deniability is desired.
In January, Pentagon’s John Kirby estimated that the Wagner group had around 50,000 fighters that were present in Ukraine. A major portion of these forces is believed to have been convicts from Russian prisons that Prigozhin recruited. These convicts were promised that if they could survive 6 months in active deployment, they would be provided with a full pardon.
The Wagner group has been sharing a narrative inside of Russia that the role of the group in the conflict is not fairly credited. They go as far as to claim that the group is being under-armed and are not receiving the amount of ammunition they require.
Another issue between the Wagner Group and Russian officials was made public recently. The Wagner group purchased a plot for some 700 graves in Goryachy Klyuch, a Russian town. As it turns out, the local authorities had been instructed to not allow the group to bury their deceased members at the cemetery. In response to this Prigozhin published another voice recording and made it clear that they will bury their deceased members regardless and if the process is hindered in any way they will take the ‘necessary actions’.
The Wagner group suffered heavy losses during the Russian push to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The Wagner group was leading the Russian forces into a battle that has held out since the summer and has turned into the longest and bloodiest battle in the war.
Ukrainian reports suggest that the over 30,000 Wagner group fighters have been killed, wounded or have deserted the conflict.
Yevgeny Prigozhin went on to say in his voice message that recruitment was going far better than expected and that they were hoping to increase the number of fighters in their units by almost 30,000 by the middle of May.
The Wagner group hopes to replenish its numbers after the bloody battle for Bakhmut so that it can continue to assist Russia in its campaign in Ukraine.