Former mercenaries of the Wagner PMC, who were in Belarus, have returned to fight against Ukrainians, having signed contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defence. They are involved in the eastern direction, two Ukrainian soldiers told CNN.
According to one of them, the former Wagner members are now near Bakhmut. In his opinion, the group's presence is in part intended to compensate for personnel shortages on the Russian side.
"Yes, Wagner is here too. They came back, they swiftly changed their commanders and returned here," he said.
In a comment to Ukrayinska Pravda, Illya Yevlash, a spokesman for the Eastern Group of Forces, confirmed that the former Wagner members are indeed in eastern Ukraine.
"They are taking part in the fighting. In particular, they come from the territory of Belarus, where their camps were located. They are now being disbanded. These servicemen are sent to different units - some of them go to Africa, some re-sign contracts with the Russian Defence Ministry and participate (in the war - Ed.) in various positions, including as instructors. Some join regular combat units. They do not pose such a threat as they did, for example, a year ago due to the loss of their main leader Yevhen Prygozhyn," he said.
The State Border Service of Ukraine told UP that out of 6,000 Wagner mercenaries, about 500 remained in Belarus.
There is no open data on how many militants came to Ukraine.
The migration of Wagner PMC mercenaries to Belarus began in June after the failed coup by its owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Amid a long-running conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defence, Prigozhin claimed that the Russian regular army had fired on the Wagner group and announced a march on Moscow. He did not reach the Russian capital and stopped after receiving a call from Putin's accomplice Alyaksandr Lukashenka. However, during the dozens of hours of confrontation, the Wagnerites managed to shoot down several Russian military aircraft and helicopters.
After the rebellion was over, the Wagnerites were given a condition: to leave for Belarus or sign contracts with the Ministry of Defence. In addition to the mercenaries, Prigozhin himself was spotted in Belarus, although he was later in Russia.
Prigozhin died in a plane crash in August. Other tops of the Wagner group died with him. After that, the Wagner camp in Belarus began to be dismantled. On 22 August, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence's Main Intelligence Directorate said that Wagner was not fighting in Ukraine as a group, only as individual fighters.