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Russia has failed to take Kiev despite weeks of attempts by Russian forces to attack the capital from three different directions.
Instead, Moscow has focused its current efforts on eastern and southern Ukraine.
“They were taken by surprise that the Ukrainian army resisted so fiercely and that they faced a real army,” Marat Gabidullin told Reuters.
The former mercenary, who now resides in France, said Moscow underestimated the Ukrainian fighting force that has trained with US and NATO troops since the 2014 Russian invasion.
“I told them: ‘Guys, it’s a mistake’”, said Gabidullin after refusing the request to return to the group 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 in annexing Crimea in 2014.
The former mercenary said he turned down the offer because he disagreed with the Kremlin’s stance on the invasion of Ukraine this time.
The Wagner Group is a paramilitary organization with known links to the Kremlin, despite repeated claims by Moscow that the Russian government is not affiliated with the group.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters he did not know about Gabidullin or whether he had previously fought with the Wagner group.
“We, the state, the government, the Kremlin can have nothing to do with this,” he said.
Ukraine reported that Russian troops suffered heavy losses and even resorted decades-old ammunition like “dumb bombs” as he struggles to re-equip his forces.
Russia has committed around $ 66 billion to its defense budget in 2021, but the amount of military aid provided by US and NATO allies could cause problems for Moscow’s military success in Ukraine.
It is unclear how much defense aid Russia has allocated for its war in Ukraine for fiscal year 2022.
But second record On Russia’s defense budget ahead of the 2014 invasion, Moscow has raised 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 envelope by nearly $ 30 billion with a budget of over $ 88 billion in 2013.
But there was no significant increase in its defense budget between 2015 and 2021, allocating less than $ 66 billion in 2021.
Ukraine has warned that Russia will make another attempt for Kiev.