Kiev celebrated Wagner exit too early: Bloomberg
Western experts say that while Kiev celebrated Wagner's withdrawal from Ukraine, the impact on the course of the war will remain minimal.
Wagner PMC's exit from the war in Ukraine, while Kiev failed to hide its joy over it, will probably make no significant changes on the battlefield, experts and officials concluded, according to a Bloomberg report published on Thursday.
Ukraine's counteroffensive is still facing difficulties, and it is not clear yet if Wagner's withdrawal will make the operation any easier, the news website cited the experts as saying.
On June 24, Wagner PMC chief Yevgeny Prigozhin announced on his Telegram channel storming the Rostov region and taking over the military headquarters in response to what he claims was a Russian attack on his troops earlier under the orders of the Defense Ministry, while the Ministry rejected his accusations.
Prigozhin later declared that his forces will march toward Moscow, but later stopped the operation after he failed to garner official supporters, and was transferred along with his troops to Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko mediated a settlement between Wagner's head and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who vowed that those responsible for the mutiny "will be punished".
On Wednesday, Kiev confirmed that the forces of the private fighting company are no longer present at the front, and were replaced by Russian troops.
However, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that the group's recent attempted mutiny has not yet impacted the war.
Read more: Latest update: Wagner advances to Moscow
Not so fast
The report mentioned that Kiev officials placed high bets that Prigozhin's attempted mutiny will lead to strife within Russia, which in turn will damage the morale of frontline Russian soldiers and divert Moscow's attention.
"In Russian Civil War, Ukraine must be the winner!" tweeted Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, right after the mutiny.
In Russian Civil War, Ukraine must be the winner!— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) June 24, 2023
“One of the most combat-ready and brutal military units in Russia has been eliminated!” he said in another tweet on Tuesday.
Well, the disarmament of the Wagner PMC is good news for Ukraine!— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) June 27, 2023
And Prigozhin quickly went from "no contract with the Russian Defense Ministry" and "we're going to Moscow" to complete disarmament in 24 hours.
One of the most combat-ready and brutal military units in Russia… pic.twitter.com/4VosZrQDuM
But Western military experts remain doubtful that Wagner's end of combat mission will lead to an actual deviation of the current course of the war.
According to the report, the actual number of Prigozhin's forces was never clear and could be less than the 25,000 mark often assumed.
Michael Kofman, a specialist on the Russian military at Washintong-based think tank CNA, suggested that the group's count fighting in Ukraine is close to 15,000 as of recently.
Wagner's key role during the winter fighting was limited to fronts around and in Bakhmut, the report said, adding that the group in the past few weeks handed most of its positions to the Russian army and pulled back its troops.
“They were not playing a key role in the war at this time,” a former US Marines officer and senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute said on a Monday.
“It was never clear after Bakhmut what their role would be in the rest of the war,” Rob Lee added during a military affairs podcast, "War on the Rocks".
According to the news site, citing Ukraine's Defense Ministry and Russian military bloggers, the Ukrainian army began to advance around Bakhmut just after Wagner announced capturing the city in May, adding that ground progress continued since last Saturday's mutiny.
It is noteworthy that Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the Russian Defense Ministry will make efforts to recruit Wagner troops to sign contracts with it.