The Wagner Group is not of any major significance in the wider perspective of the ongoing war in Ukraine, security expert Rainer Saks says, in the wake of a recent outburst on video from the group's leader, oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Thought to be named after the 19th century composer of the same name, the Wagner Group had already picked up a notorious reputation for brutality even ahead of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, starting February 2022.
In a recent video appearance, against the backdrop of dead bodies likely assembled for the purpose, Prigozhin launched a withering verbal attack on Russia's defense minister and Vladimir Putin confidant Sergei Shoigu, as well as on Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, claiming that the Wagner Group had not been provided with sufficient ammunition to continue the assault on the city of Bakhmut, and would be pulling out from the area in a few days' time.
Speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Friday, Saks said that Prigozhin's presentation was clear to the target audience, ie. the Russian people, and likely had two aims.
"On the one hand, there is most likely indeed a shortage of ammunition, otherwise he wouldn't have touched on that matter. I think this shortage of ammunition applies not only to the Wagner Group, but also to other units too," Saks said.
"Ukraine is constantly working to obstruct the Russian army's logistics and supplies," he added.
"The second thing he wants to achieve is some kind of special treatment and attention for his units," Saks went on.
Wagner has in any case received special treatment, up to now at least, the expert said.
"They certainly have seen completely different conditions in the fight, and there has been talk of equipment - there has been special treatment here. However, as of now, these supplies have probably started to expire," Saks continued.
"Most important, I believe casualties have been very high, so his unit is diminishing in size," Saks said.
Meanwhile, the Wagner Group is no longer of much significance to the war, in Saks' view
"It is undoubtedly one of the elite units, with very well-trained and equipped men, but it has suffered a lot, as it was used in a very difficult zone, the assault on Bakhmut. For sure, even there, they are however no longer the sole or main unit."
Nonetheless, Prigozhin will not make good on his threat to withdraw his forces on May 10. "No, he's not taking them anywhere. That's for others to decide as he's not leading a military operation. He's just one of the heads of this organization, I would suggest," Saks said.
According to Saks, predicting the course of the war in the coming weeks will prove difficult. Ukraine will certainly continue the recently launched offensive, in order to take the initiative militarily, he said. At the same time, it is not clear whether Ukraine will forge ahead with its ground forces.
"This all depends on whether they can create the right conditions for an offensive using ground forces. But right now I can't predict that,, and probably no one else can either," Saks went on.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', interviewer Priit Kuusk.