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ISW says competition between Russian PMCs is growing in Bakhmut

Thursday, 27 April 2023, 03:40
ISW says competition between Russian PMCs is growing in Bakhmut

Experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) have indicated that competition between Russian private military companies (PMCs) is growing in the battles for Bakhmut.

Source: ISW

Details: The report noted that competition between Russian PMCs in Bakhmut is probably growing.


As an example of this, analysts cite the fact that in a video message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, soldiers of Potok (reportedly one of the three volunteer units funded by the Russian state energy company Gazprom) claimed that Gazprom officials told Potok members that they will sign contracts with the Russian Defence Ministry, but then they were forced to sign contracts with Redut PMC.

One of the Potok fighters claimed that Gazprom has created two more units, Fakel (Torch) and Plamya (Flame), subordinated to the Russian Defence Ministry.

The report also indicated that Potok reported mistreatment by Wagner fighters, who threatened to shoot Potok fighters if they moved away from the contact line.

Various sources reported that Potok fighters left their positions in Bakhmut. The reason for this was the lack of ammunition.

According to the ISW, Wagner's financier Yevgeny Prigozhin likely sees the increase in the number of PMCs around Bakhmut as competition, and it appears that the increased presence of other private military formations in the Bakhmut area could lead to significant disagreements.

Also, according to the collected information, the report noted that Russia appears to be continuing a targeted depopulation campaign in the occupied territories of Ukraine in order to facilitate the settlement of Ukrainian territories by Russians.

Hanna Maliar, Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine, said on 26 April that the occupiers are attempting to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territories of Ukraine by resettling ethnic groups from poor and remote regions of Russia to Ukraine.

Analysts suggest that Russia may hope to bring in Russians to fill the depopulated areas of Ukraine, aiming to further integrate the occupied areas into Russia socially, administratively, politically and economically, thereby complicating the conditions for the reintegration of these areas into Ukraine.

As experts emphasised, such depopulation and resettlement campaigns can be equated with targeted ethnic cleansing and a clear violation of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

To quote ISW's key takeaways on 26 April:

  • Russia appears to be continuing a deliberate depopulation campaign in occupied areas of Ukraine in order to facilitate the repopulation of Ukrainian territories with Russians.
  • Competition among Russian private military companies (PMCs) is likely increasing in Bakhmut.
  • The Kremlin continues measures to codify conditions for domestic repression.
  • Comments made by Russian officials and prominent voices in the Russian information space continue to highlight a pervasive anxiety over potential Ukrainian counteroffensive actions.
  • In a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Chinese leader Xi Jinping explicitly recognised Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, stating that mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity were essential to Ukrainian-Chinese relations.
  • The Kremlin is likely attempting to reassure Armenia that it is a reliable partner despite the fact that the war in Ukraine is limiting Russia’s ability to play a larger role in mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Kremlin may attempt to use conscripts to maintain peacekeeping operations in Nagorno-Karabakh and preserve relations with Armenia and other Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) member states.
  • Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces did not conduct any offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces have made gains within Bakhmut and north of Avdiivka.
  • Russian milbloggers continue to argue amongst themselves about Ukrainian activity along the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian authorities have started sending military registration summonses that include threats of "restrictive measures".
  • Russian sources claimed that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) prevented an attempted attack in Crimea.

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