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A former mercenary from the notorious Kremlin-linked Wagner Group has claimed that Russia was ill-prepared for its war in Ukraine, reports reported on Friday.
Russia failed to take kyiv despite weeks of attempts by Russian forces to attack the capital from three different directions.
Moscow has instead focused its current efforts on eastern and southern Ukraine.
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“They were taken completely by surprise that the Ukrainian army resisted so fiercely and they faced a real army,” Marat Gabidullin told Reuters.
The former mercenary, who now resides in France, said Moscow had underestimated the Ukrainian combat force which has been training with US and NATO troops since the Russian invasion in 2014.
“I told them, ‘Guys, this is a mistake,'” Gabidullin reportedly said after turning down a request to return to the squad and fight in Ukraine.
Gabidullin fought with the Wagner Group on behalf of Moscow during missions in Syria and a previous conflict in Ukraine – although it is unclear whether he assisted Russian forces during the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The former mercenary alleged he turned down the offer because he disagreed with the Kremlin’s stance on invading Ukraine this time around.
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The Wagner Group is a paramilitary organization with known ties to the Kremlin, despite repeated claims from Moscow that the Russian government is not affiliated with the group.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters he did not know Gabidullin or if he had ever fought with the Wagner Group.
“We, the state, the government, the Kremlin have nothing to do with it,” he said.
Ukraine has reported that Russian troops have suffered heavy casualties and even resorted to decades-old ammunition as “dumb bombs” as it struggles to re-equip its forces.
Russia has allocated about $66 billion to its defense budget in 2021, but the amount of military aid provided by the United States and NATO allies could hurt Moscow’s military success in Ukraine.
It’s unclear how much defense aid Russia has allocated to its war in Ukraine for fiscal year 2022.
But according to Russia’s defense budget records before its 2014 invasion, Moscow stepped up its arms in apparent preparation – a move it does not appear to have made for its 2022 campaign.
Between 2010 and 2013, Russia increased its defense budget by almost $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, allocating less than $66 billion in 2021.
Ukraine has warned that Russia will make another attempt for Kyiv.
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