Wagner Group Numbers Swell As Prigozhin Becomes Problem For Putin

Russia's shadowy mercenary collective, the Wagner Group, continues to expand to "up to 50,000" fighters in Ukraine, amid reports that the organization's main financier Yevgeny

Prigozhin is becoming "increasingly bold" in his criticism of the Russian military—posing a problem for Vladimir Putin. The private mercenaries have been heavily involved in

the fighting in Ukraine, and have claimed credit for the recent fall of Soledar, a strategic town in the Donetsk region, nine kilometers north of Bakhmut. Prigozhin, a billionaire

oligarch who has been a long-time ally of Putin's, has used the capture of the town to discredit Russia's army. The British ministry of defense gave an update on the Wagner

Group in its daily intelligence update on Friday, where it noted that the group registered as a legal entity at the end of last year, signaling its rapid expansion. "The

registration continues the remarkably rapid development of the traditionally opaque group's public profile. Prigozhin only admitted to founding Wagner in September 2022; in

October 2022, it opened a glossy HQ in St Petersburg," the ministry said. "Wagner almost certainly now commands up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine and has become a key

component of the Ukraine campaign. The registration likely aims to maximize Prigozhin's commercial gain and to further legitimize the increasingly high-profile

organization." The group first appeared in Ukraine in 2014, when it participated in the annexation of Crimea. In January, reports emerged that said the Wagner Group was

resorting to recruiting prisoners from Belarus to fight in Ukraine.