Up to 20,000 mercenaries in Ukraine: European official

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 20 2022 06:54 AM | Updated as of Apr 21 2022 06:32 AM

The monument of Russian soldiers from WWII, with the soldiers' hands painted in red, at the Red Army memorial in Sofia, Bulgaria, 27 February 2022. Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February prompting the country's president to declare martial law and triggering a series of announcements by Western countries to impose severe economic sanctions on Russia. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV
The monument of Russian soldiers from WWII, with the soldiers' hands painted in red, at the Red Army memorial in Sofia, Bulgaria, 27 February 2022. Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February prompting the country's president to declare martial law and triggering a series of announcements by Western countries to impose severe economic sanctions on Russia. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

WASHINGTON, United States - Up to 20,000 mercenaries from the Russian private military company the Wagner Group as well as from Syria and Libya are fighting alongside Moscow's forces in Ukraine, a European official said Tuesday.

"Regarding their capabilities, it's infantry. They don't have any heavy vehicles and weapons. It's much more infantry," the official told reporters in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"These guys are mainly used as a mass against Ukrainian resistance," the official said.

He added that of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 mercenaries taking part in the invasion, it is difficult to say how many are from the Wagner Group, which is said to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and how many are from Syria and Libya.

The official said there has been some "transfer" of fighters from Libya and Syria to the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.

The damaged hangar containing the wreckage of the world's largest plane, the Ukrainian cargo Antonov An-225 Mriya 'Dream', is seen at the Gostomel airfield near Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 8, 2022. Oleg Petrasyuk, EPA-EFE
The damaged hangar containing the wreckage of the world's largest plane, the Ukrainian cargo Antonov An-225 Mriya 'Dream', is seen at the Gostomel airfield near Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 8, 2022. Oleg Petrasyuk, EPA-EFE

In late March, the British defense ministry said more than 1,000 mercenaries from the Wagner Group would likely take part in fighting in Ukraine, including senior leaders of the organization.

The European official said that in four to six months the war will probably be in a stalemate, with Russian troops controlling Lugansk, which is part of Donbas, and a tiny land bridge within Zaporizhzhia province in southern Ukraine.

The official also predicted that by the autumn of this year negotiations between Russia and Ukraine could conclude, which would bring the war to an end before winter sets in.

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© Agence France-Presse

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