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A former mercenary with the notorious Kremlin-linked Wagner Group claimed that Russia was ill-prepared for its war in Ukraine, reports said Friday.
Russia failed to take Kyiv despite weeks of attempts by Russian forces to attack the capital city from three different directions.
Moscow has instead focused its current efforts on eastern and southern Ukraine.
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“They were caught completely by surprise that the Ukrainian army resisted so fiercely and that they faced an actual army,” Marat Gabidullin told Reuters.
The former mercenary, who now resides in France, said Moscow underestimated Ukraine’s fighting force which has been training with U.S. and NATO troops since Russia’s 2014 invasion.
“I told them: ‘Guys, that’s a mistake’,” Gabidullin, reportedly said upon turning down a request to return to the group and fight in Ukraine.
Gabidullin fought with the Wagner Group on Moscow’s behalf during missions in Syria and a previous conflict in Ukraine – though it is unclear if he assisted Russian forces in the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The former mercenary alleged that he turned down the offer because he did not agree with the Kremlin’s position on invading Ukraine this time around.
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The Wagner Group is a paramilitary organization with known ties to the Kremlin, despite Moscow’s repeated claims that the Russian government is not affiliated with the group.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters that he did not know of Gabidullin or whether he had previously fought with the Wagner Group.
“We, the state, the government, the Kremlin cannot have anything to do with it,” he said.
Ukraine has reported that Russian troops have taken serious losses and have even resorted to decades-old ammunitions like “dumb bombs” as it struggles to re-equip its forces.
Russia allotted roughly $66 billion for its defense budget in 2021, but the amount of military aid being provided by the U.S. and NATO allies could spell trouble for Moscow’s military success in Ukraine.
It is unclear how much defense aid Russia has allotted for its war in Ukraine for the 2022 fiscal year.
But according to records on Russia’s defense budget in the lead-up to its 2014 invasion, Moscow ramped up its arms in apparent preparation – a move it does not appear to have done for its 2022 campaign.
Between 2010 and 2013 Russia increased its defense allotment by nearly $30 billion with a budget of over $88 billion in 2013.
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But between 2015 and 2021, there was no significant increase in its defense budget, allotting less than $66 billion in 2021.
Ukraine has warned Russia will make another attempt for Kyiv.