Wagner Group could present a new threat to Ukraine, warns war monitor
Kyiv, Ukraine - Russia's paramilitary Wagner army under the control of the Kremlin may be a new threat to Ukraine, according to the latest assessment by military observers.
The Wagner Group would present a threat if it re-emerges as an effective military organization or reconstitutes as a large, unitary organization with effective centralized leadership steered by the Russian Defense Ministry, according to an analysis by the US Institute for Studies of War (ISW).
The institute had earlier said the army was not a threat after the death of its chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a plane crash in August.
His death came after he led a brief insurrection in the summer, following rising tensions between Russian military commanders and Prigozhin, whose fighters battled alongside regular Russian units in Ukraine.
The leadership and status of the Wagner force is currently unclear, but ISW said Prigozhin's son Pavel might take over the leadership of the units, citing sources close to the organization.
Pavel Prigozhin is to negotiate with the National Guard, which is subordinate to the presidential administration and has its own combat technology, ISW said.
However, the Russian Defense Ministry would still have to provide weapons, ammunition, and logistics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin received former Wagner official and army co-founder Andrei Trozhev in the Kremlin last week and tasked him with forming volunteer units.
At the time, Putin said the units would be used primarily in the war against Ukraine.
Under Prigozhin, Wagner conquered several territories in Ukraine, including Bakhmut.
But presently, the group's leadership and status are unclear. It has units deployed in Belarus, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Mali, according to the analysis.
Russian naval aviation plays increasing role in Ukraine war
Meanwhile in Ukraine, as Moscow seeks to cement its holds on the south and east, Russian naval aviation is playing an increasingly important role in the Kremlin's war, according to the latest British assessment on Monday.
Russia is also using naval air power in the face of Ukrainian attacks on the Russian navy in an attempt to control the north-west of the Black Sea, the British Ministry of Defense said.
"In recent weeks, the Naval Aviation component of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has assumed a particularly important role in the Fleet’s operations as it struggles to deal with concurrent threats on the southern flank of the Ukraine war," the analysis said.
"Naval Aviation is emphasising maritime air patrol operations, highly likely with a primary mission of the early identification of uncrewed surface vessels."
A key Russian asset in these operations is the Be-12 MAIL amphibious aircraft, designed in the 1950s, flying out of bases in occupied Crimea, the ministry said.
Su-24 FENCER and FLANKER variant combat jets conduct maritime strike operations, including at least one recent air strike on the strategically located Snake Island, the ministry said.
Located around 28 miles off the coast of Romania, Snake Island gained notoriety after the start of the war when its small garrison refused to surrender to a Russian naval vessel.
The island was nevertheless captured by the attackers and the garrison staff imprisoned. Less than two months later, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Moskva, which was involved in the incident, sank. The Ukrainians recaptured Snake Island in July 2022.
"With more Fleet activities likely relocating to Novorossiysk in the face of threats to Sevastopol, Russia is attempting to use naval air power to project force over the north-western Black Sea," according to the analysis.
Cover photo: REUTERS