As Russia declares victory in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has said that as many as 20,000 of his private troops have died in combat in the region.
In an interview with Russian blogger Konstantin Dolgov after the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Bakhmut is under Russian control, Prigozhin said that roughly 20% of recruits taken from Russian prisons died in combat.
Prigozhin also said that 50% of the losses were Wagner employees, while the remaining half were made up of prison recruits.
Prigozhin’s comments come as he announces that he will withdraw all Wagner fighters from Bakhmut sometime before June 1, and during the recent interview, he didn’t play down the strength of Ukrainian forces.
“I can say from my own experience, we have fought in many places with many people. Today, the Ukrainians are one of the strongest armies,” Prigozhin said. “They have a top level of organization, high levels of training and great intelligence.”
While the Russian government has been less than forthright about the true number of losses throughout the Ukraine invasion, Prigozhin’s figures appear to match up with estimates released by the United States. On Monday, May 1, the White House said that an estimated 100,000 Russian soldiers have been injured or killed in the Battle for Bakhmut over the prior five months. Out of those 100,000 casualties, the White House said that more than 20,000 were killed.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that despite the intense fighting in Bakhmut, Russian forces have largely failed in their efforts to take control over the Donbas region of Ukraine.
“Russia’s attempt at a winter offensive in the Donbas largely through Bakhmut has failed,” Kirby said.
“Last December, Russia initiated a broad offensive across multiple lines of advance, including toward Vuhledar, Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and Kreminna. Most of these efforts stalled and failed. Russia has been unable to seize any strategically significant territory.”
What now for Bakhmut?
Despite Russia’s claim that Bakhmut is now under the full control of the Russians, Ukrainian officials continue to insist that their troops maintain some control over parts of the city and are moving ahead with plans to encircle the city.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said this week that while Ukrainian forces have moved out of the built-up areas of Bakhmut, they remain in control of an area known for its “industrial and infrastructure facilities” in the outskirts of the city to the southeast
Maliar also confirmed that thousands of Russian reinforcements have since been sent to the city, a move that Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov said proves Russia has failed in its offensive actions.
“The fact that the enemy is forced to transfer additional reserves in order to continue the operation on Bakhmut, in general, indicates the failure of their offensive actions,” Yusov said.
Feature Image: Video screenshot of a Russian T-72B3 tank on fire and a second decapitated tank by Ukraine’s 93rd Mechanized Brigade.
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