The Ministry of Defence yesterday said Wagner is ‘lowering recruitment standards and hiring convicts,’ adding that ‘very limited training is made available to new recruits’
Russia’s shadowy Kremlin-linked mercenary group is hiring fighters with the promise of “travel and friendship” as it openly recruits for the first time.
Wagner, said to be operated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, Vladimir Putin’s former chef, sends secret fighting groups abroad to look after Russian interests.
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Many have ended up fighting in Ukraine where, with casualties mounting in Russia’s regular army, analysts said commanders were relying on more “volunteers” from groups like Wagner.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday said Wagner is “lowering recruitment standards and hiring convicts,” adding that “very limited training is made available to new recruits.” The recruitment drive has resorted to using roadside billboards and social media.
Part of the pitch distances the group from corrupt and incompetent Russian soldiers – Wagner sees itself as the Russian army’s shadowy rebel offshoot.
Wagner’s account on Telegram called “The Reverse Side of the Medal” – which has 290,000 subscribers – shows photos and videos set to rock music of fighters holding modern rifles and promising travel and adventure.
Wagner mercenaries are seen posing with sledgehammers, a nod to their reputed brutality. In Syria, Wagner soldiers were filmed killing an anti-regime fighter with a sledgehammer, splitting his head open and sawing it off.
Named after the military call sign of its Russian special forces founder, Wagner also draws links to the German composer Richard Wagner by calling itself an “orchestra” with “musicians.” Wagner recruits are given a bonus of 200,000 roubles (pounds 2,900), three times the average monthly salary in Russia.
After two weeks of training, recruits go to Ukraine – a potentially attractive option for young men looking to escape provincial Russia.
Wagner may be struggling to recruit, as a high casualty rate in Ukraine undermines its allure. But the website wagner2022.org promises recruits that Wagner “is winning” in Ukraine.” The orchestra needs musicians in Ukraine!” it says. “Embark on your first combat campaign with living industry legends!”
James Rushton, a British security analyst in Ukraine, said: “The Russian army is essentially scrambling for any and all available manpower.”
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