According to a news published by Kaitlin Lewis on Newsweek website, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin is using Wagner Group forces to train his troops on the front lines in Ukraine, according to an alleged phone call between Moscow soldiers that was intercepted by Ukraine's Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR).
"A member of the private mercenary group Wagner pays tribute to the late Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, a late Wagner officer, at amakeshift memorial in front of the PMC Wagner office in Novosibirsk, on August 24, 2023. The Wagner Group has reportedly begun training Russian troops in along the frontlines in Ukraine".
The call, which the GUR posted to its Telegram channel on Monday, could provide insight into how Putin is potentially utilizing Wagner's legacy in the absence of the group's late leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash in August. Prigozhin had once been deemed "Putin's chef" and shared a close allyship with the Kremlin leader before leading his private mercenaries in a rebellion against Moscow in June.
According to the intercepted call, a Russian soldier deployed in Ukraine told his colleague that the "guys from Wagner are here training us," adding that the mercenaries are "slowing returning" to the front lines, according to an English translation of the phone call provided by the Kyiv Post.
The Russian serviceman reportedly indicated he was not fond of the Wagner fighters training his unit.
"F^k them," the soldier said of the trainers, according to the Kyiv Post.
The authenticity of the phone call could not be verified by Newsweek. GUR and Russia's Ministry of Defense were contacted Tuesday via email for comment.
Wagner forces once played a key role in Moscow's offensive fronts in eastern Ukraine, including fighting alongside Russian troops in the months-long battle for the Donetsk city of Bakhmut. However, one of the conditions for Prigozhin avoiding punishment for his failed rebellion was he go into exile in Belarus.
The Wagner mercenaries who didn't follow their leader to Belarus and remained in Ukraine were given the option of joining the formal Russian military.
Other members of the group continued on with their previous work in several African countries.
Reports first surfaced in September that Wagner mercenaries were returning to fight in Ukraine "to protect the interests of Russia" while under the close eye of the Kremlin. Russian news outlets also reported in late October that Wagner had begun recruiting troops under the direction of Prigozhin son, Pavel, to fight in the war against Ukraine as an arm of the Russian National Guard.
The Wagner Group has also been repeatedly accused of committing war crimes and is potentially tied to the charges brought against Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating purported instances of atrocities in Ukraine.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March over accusations of Russian troops abducting children from Ukraine.
On Monday, former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Salikov said he is willing to testify about the alleged war crimes to the ICC in exchange for "international protection and political asylum" for himself and his family.
Salikov claimed to have worked with Wagner and said that one of the group's leaders, Dmitry Utkin, gave orders for the execution and reprisals of civilians in both Ukraine and Syria. Source: Newsweek.com