Wagner Group dubbed suicide squad over heavy loses as cracks show with Kremlin

The man dubbed 'Putin's chef' who heads up machine-gun toting wackos the Wagner Group is losing his influence within the Kremlin after his force was dubbed the 'suicide squad'.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a 61-year-old Russian catering tycoon, was credited with the January capture of Soledar by Russian aligned forces and was Russian's first battlefield gain in Ukraine since the summer of 2022.

But since then Russian forces and the Wagner group have grown extremely bogged down.

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In the city of Bakhmut, Prigozhin has called up swathes of Russian prisoners and poured them into the city after very basic training for the past six months, but without any sign of victory.

The Wagner Group looks to now be playing a less prominent role in the war, with speculation that Prigozhin could be given his marching orders despite him harboring ambitions to become one of Putin's top brass.

Prigozhin was born in St Petersburg and has himself served time in jail.

For months he has been attempting to bolster Putin's beleaguered forces by offering male prisoners reduced sentences and cash in exchange for six months of military service.

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Joana de Deus Pereira, senior research fellow at think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said initially, the paramilitary group was seen as a "very useful tool and an instrument of war."

"Now, Prigozhin has become much more dangerous in terms of the political persona he wants to be," she told Newsweek.

According to Pereira, businessman has got above his station and is believes he holds both the military and political solution to the conflict.

"He sees himself as a defense minister or someone with a high profile inside the Kremlin, at least visible and respectful enough to be rewarded for what he has been doing for the country.

"The Wagner Group is now losing its power "because the Kremlin wants also to show that they are the ones in charge," said Pereira.

Added to this, fighters in Wagner appear to be dying faster than they can be replaced, with the male prison population in Russia decreasing by 23,000 in two months after Prigozhin's ramped-up recruitment drive.

Vlad Mykhnenko, an expert in the Eastern European history at Oxford University, said Prigozhin is trying to carve out a bigger role for himself, but believes it is unlikely he will succeed.

"The Wagner Group is effectively a 'suicide squad.' That's not a really big promotional, unique selling point," he said.

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