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Russia using private contractor Vagner to beef up forces in Ukraine, says British Defense Ministry

Yevgeny Prigozhin (FBI/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia is using the private military contractor Vagner to beef up its frontline forces in its invasion of Ukraine, British military intelligence said on July 18.

In its daily intelligence update, the British Defense Ministry said Vagner is lowering its recruitment standards and hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals, potentially impacting Russian military effectiveness.

Vagner is believed to be controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The report comes a day after the head of Britain’s armed forces, Admiral Tony Radakin, said Russia has lost some 50,000 killed or wounded soldiers in its invasion of Ukraine and nearly 1,700 tanks have been destroyed.

Facing heavy casualties in a war whose end may be months or years away, Putin’s government and the military have taken numerous steps to bolster recruitment without, at least for now, ordering a general mobilization that could be politically risky.

Ukrainian authorities have claimed Russia has lost more than 38,450 soldiers and officers since it launched the large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The Russian Defense Ministry last released casualty figures in late March, saying that 1,351 of its personnel had died.