Wagner Group Chief Announces Plans to Recruit 30,000 More Fighters

(CNN) — The head of Russia’s Wagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced on Saturday that he plans to recruit some 30,000 new fighters by mid-May, according to a voicemail posted on Telegram.

Prigozhin also claimed that Wagner recruits around 500 to 800 people on average per day, sometimes up to 1,200 people per day.

“It is possible that this number of recruits will decrease after some time; however, by mid-May, we plan for the number of fighters in the unit to increase by approximately 30,000,” Prigozhin said in an audio message.

Wagner is a mercenary company led by Prigozhin, who has been highly visible on the front lines in recent months, and is always quick to claim credit for Russian advances.

The group is known for its blunt and brutal tactics, and for showing little regard for the lives of its own soldiers. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling described his tactics in eastern Ukraine as “like feeding meat into a meat grinder”.

The founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, transmits a video message outside Bakhmut, Ukraine, on March 3. (Telegram)

Last week, Prigozhin said that Wagner had opened recruitment efforts in 42 Russian cities.

Wagner has turned his attention to recruiting mercenaries from sports clubs, boxing gyms and other gyms, as well as men who have previously served six-month contracts and could be rehired. Wagner has also recruited a small number of foreign fighters.

CNN previously reported that Wagner said he stopped recruiting in prisons in january. The prison recruiting drive was highly publicized and widespread, recruiting as many as 40,000 fighters for Wagner last year.

But many of the private military group’s recruits have been killed or wounded in heavy fighting around the city of Bakhmut, the scene of a months-long battle.

That the group is seeking tens of thousands of new fighters suggests it has suffered considerable losses in the conflict.

Earlier this month, Prigozhin acknowledged that the situation in Bakhmut was “difficult, very difficult, with the enemy fighting each other for every meter.”

Although Wagner made incremental gains around Bakhmut and now controls the eastern part of the city, this came at an enormous cost. Prigozhin called for the support of regular Russian forces and a more reliable flow of ammunition, but neither came. He accused the Russian Defense Ministry of trying to strangle the force on him.

A Ukrainian military intelligence report obtained by CNN details the ruthless tactics used by Wagner. The reportdated December 2022, concluded that “the death of thousands of Wagner soldiers does not matter to Russian society.”

In January, a former Wagner mercenary said in an exclusive CNN interview that the brutality he witnessed in the Ukraine ultimately pushed him to defect.

Wagner Defector Details Brutal Executions He Witnessed 4:09

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