Ukraine has claimed it has identified several hundred former members of the PMC on the battlefield, the outlet reported
Former Wagner Group fighters have returned to the battlefield near Artyomovsk (known as Bakhmut in Ukraine), CNN reported on Wednesday, citing commanders in Kiev. The Russian private military company withdrew from the front in May, later staging a short-lived mutiny.
Sergey Cherevaty, deputy commander of communications for Ukraine's eastern forces, told the US network that former Wagner troops are now working for the Russian Defense Ministry or its affiliated structures, and have been dispersed among various units on the front line.
"As of now, there are several hundred of them in our direction, on the Eastern Front, in different areas," Cherevaty claimed.
A Ukrainian drone operator near Artyomovsk also told CNN that "Wagner is here," adding that the fighters "swiftly changed their commanders and returned here."
The Wagner Group was instrumental in taking control of Artyomovsk, a key Donbass stronghold which was captured by Russian troops in late May after months of bitter fighting. Several days later, Evgeny Prigozhin, the now-deceased chief of the PMC, announced a withdrawal from the front line, stating that positions previously occupied by Wagner troops had been handed over to the Russian military.
However, the pullout came amid strained relations between Prigozhin and the Russian Defense Ministry. The PMC chief repeatedly accused defense officials of providing his troops with inadequate ammunition supplies. The ministry denied the claims, and demanded that all "volunteer units" fighting in the conflict with Ukraine sign contracts with the Russian military - something Prigozhin refused to do.
The feud culminated in late June when the Wagner chief accused the Defense Ministry of shelling one of the PMC's field camps - an allegation denied by the ministry - and announced a 'march of justice' on Moscow. Later, however, Wagner agreed to halt its advance as part of a deal with Moscow brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
As a result, Wagner troops received an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign contracts with the Defense Ministry or move to Belarus, a key ally of Moscow.
Prigozhin died along with several high-ranking Wagner operatives in a plane crash in Russia's Tver Region in August. An investigation into the incident is ongoing and will include the possibility that the crash was a "premeditated crime," according to Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.