Half of all Russian prisoners recruited to fight in Ukraine have likely been killed or wounded, says UK intelligence
Around half of the prisoners Russia recruited for Ukraine have been killed or wounded, per UK intel.
The private pro-Kremlin Wagner Group has sent many prisoners to one of the war's bloodiest battles.
But the group can no longer recruit from prisons, limiting its ability to reinforce, the UK said.
Around half of the prisoners recruited to fight in Ukraine by the Russian mercenary Wagner Group have likely been killed or wounded so far in the war, according to UK intelligence.
The UK Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Monday that "about half of the prisoners Wagner has already deployed in Ukraine have likely become casualties."
Early in the conflict the pro-Kremlin mercenary force was given permission to recruit from prisons, offering pardons in exchange for time served on the front lines.
It is not clear exactly how many prisoners the group has sent to Ukraine, but the US Department of Defense estimated in December that it then had around 40,000 prisoners deployed in the country, as well as 10,000 contractors.
The group has been fighting for months for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which has become one of the bloodiest and longest-running battles in the war. Commanders on both sides have called it a "meat grinder."
In February, it was reported that Wagner had stopped recruiting prisoners as growing numbers refused to be enlisted on suicide missions in Ukraine, according to multiple reports.
It's also been reported that the group has now been blocked from recruiting new prisoners.
Instead, the UK MOD said on Monday that Wagner recruiters had spoken in Moscow high schools, and collected the details of students who were interested in fighting.
But it added that recruiting from schools would likely not be enough to bridge the gap caused by it no longer having access to prisoners.
If it's still unable to recruit from prisons, Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin "will likely be forced to reduce the scale or intensity of Wagner operations in Ukraine," the MOD said.
The Washington DC-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said in an update on Sunday that Russia's military leadership may actually be deliberately letting Wagner soldiers get killed off in Bakhmut, as a result of an ongoing feud between Prigozhin and Russian military leadership.
Prigozhin and the army's top brass have been involved in an escalating power struggle over the invasion, clashing over credit for victories and access to supplies.
Prigozhin said last week that he had been cut off by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and accused the military of ignoring his requests for more ammunition for his troops.
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