Russian private military company Wagner Group, which is believed to have sent thousands of convicts to the front lines in Ukraine as ‘cannon fodder’, has suffered more than 30,000 casualties there, including about 9,000 fatalities.
As the White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, the paramilitary organization widely known to be a proxy for the Russian military still fills its ranks relying heavily on convicts.
Wagner is thought to be financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a friend of President Vladimir Putin, and Moscow has allegedly relied heavily on Wagner mercenaries to conduct much of the fighting in Ukraine, particularly in Bakhmut, where there’s an ongoing brutal battle.
According to Kirby, the Wagner Group treats its recruits – largely convicts who had received little training or provisions – basically as cannon fodder without a second thought, throwing them into a literal meat grinder there, in particular with respect to Bakhut.
Previously in January, the US Treasury Department on Thursday designated Wagner Group as a “significant transnational criminal organization” in an effort to degrade Moscow’s ability to wage its war in Ukraine, unveiling at the same time a new batch of sanctions against Russia.
The Treasury’s designation means that American citizens are prohibited from providing the private military company with funds, goods, or services and that the US is freezing any US assets that Wagner Group may have.
The group was also targeted with additional sanctions as part of another executive order, accusing it of involvement in Moscow-backed combat operations around the world.
Washington was hoping to further impede Russia’s ability to arm and equip Putin’s war machinery by expanding sanctions on Wagner Group and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, which has been increasingly turning to Wagner for military and intelligence support.
According to data Kirby previously provided, Wagner is becoming a rival power center to the Russian military with about 50,000 personnel currently deployed to Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts recruited from Russian prisons.