How Putin Is Pivoting Away From the Wagner Group

Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group of mercenaries has dominated headlines in Ukraine, has reportedly been sidelined by Vladimir Putin after failing to make good on his

promises of military gains. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Prigozhin's "star has begun to set" following his boasts that his forces could capture the Donetsk

city of Bakhmut. The think tank said on Sunday that Putin wanted to see what Prigozhin and his previous commander in Ukraine, General Sergey Surovikin could do after the

conventional Russian military had suffered disastrous setbacks. "Both efforts failed," the ISW said, as Prigozhin's attempts to seize Bakhmut were frustrated and Surovikin's

air campaign to inflict suffering on Ukrainian civilians expended "most of Russia's remaining stocks of precision missiles." Around 80 per cent of Prigozhin's 50,000-strong

force in Ukraine are reportedly convicts who have been thrown into assault operations around Bakhmut at high cost. Putin was prepared to test how the use of prisoners would play

out in the war. On January 11, Putin appointed Valery Gerasimov, demoting Surovikin, in a move that the ISW said showed the Russian president is putting his trust in "the

conventional Russian military once more." Prigozhin's social media posts, in which he touted his forces' purported gains and disparaged the Russian command in the field,

suggested he fancied himself as someone who could be a big player in military affairs. The ISW said "those hopes now seem to have been delusional" with Wagner not getting the

expected credit for gains in the town of Soledar, near Bakhmut.