The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is likely to shift his attention away from the war in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, Yevgeny Prigozhin plans to turn his focus back to Africa, where his fighters are believed to have a presence in Sudan, the Central African Republic, Mali and other countries.
The alleged shift is believed to be connected to the recent rift between Prigozhin and top military commanders who have sowed doubts with President Vladimir Putin about Wagner’s military capability, people close to the Kremlin and intelligence services told Bloomberg, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The commanders reportedly argued that the results Wagner achieved in Ukraine came from throwing huge numbers of recruited prisoners to their deaths.
Prigozhin was filmed personally recruiting prisoners to fight for Wagner in Ukraine in several Russian prisons in the late summer and early fall.
According to Bloomberg, Putin stepped in to transfer prison recruiting to the Defense Ministry, cutting off the flow of recruits to Wagner.
The outlet added that Wagner's operations in Africa would likely get more of Prigozhin’s attention if the situation in Ukraine becomes more difficult for the mercenary outfit.
A Wagner recruitment announcement posted Monday also offered applications to serve terms in Africa ranging from nine to 14 months, specifying that those who enlist would be placed on reserve, the outlet said.
After years of operating in the shadows, the Wagner Group has stepped into the spotlight amid the invasion of Ukraine, and has taken a leading role in fighting for the eastern city of Bakhmut since summer 2022, taking heavy losses in the process.
But tensions between Wagner and the Defense Ministry have simmered for months as Prigozhin accused the Russian army of taking credit for victories won by Wagner fighters and of slowing down Wagner units' advances.