Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine
Air Vice Marshal Mick Smeath, London’s defence attache in Washington, said Russia had probably been forced to make Ukraine a priority for Wagner personnel at the expense of their operations in Africa and Syria. "Due to heavy losses and a largely stalled invasion, Russia has highly likely been forced to reprioritise Wagner personnel for Ukraine at the expense of operations in Africa and Syria," the statement said.
Thousands of mercenaries from Wagner Group have been deployed in Syria since 2015. The US and EU consider the group to be a surrogate of the Russian military, but the Kremlin denies it even exists.
Deployments in the Sahel changed the balance of forces in the region earlier this year. After a coup Mali's leaders said they would turn to Wagner to strengthen their ranks.
Mali was caught off-guard when President Emmanuel Macron said the 5,000-strong French army presence would be cut in half and Paris said the coup leaders were "wiping your feet on the blood of French soldiers".
The Pentagon said it appeared Moscow was drawing on Russian troops based in Georgia, but no details were available on their number or the timing of their expected deployment.Pentagon officials said recently that they expected Russia to look for ways to replace their combat losses with troops in other countries. Wagner is closely associated with Kremlin-linked oligarchs and its founder is Dmitry Utkin who used his Russian special forces code name for the operations. The shaven-headed former lieutenant colonel in Spetsnaz, the Russia's special forces, has been described as a neo-Nazi. Wagner was Hitler's favourite composer and a Russian newspaper said Utkin had 'an appreciation of the aesthetic of the Third Reich'.
The US and EU consider the group to be a surrogate of the Russian military, but the Kremlin denies it exists.
In December, the EU imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group and Utkin, for fomenting violence and committing human rights abuses in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.