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Russian Private Army Wagner Suffers Heavy Losses in Battle for Bakhmut

Yevgeny Prigozhin (Via Yevgeny Prigozhin/Twitter)

Russian private army Wagner lost over 20,000 fighters in the nine-month battle for Bakhmut, according to its chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin stated that 20% of the 50,000 Russian prisoners recruited to fight in the war died in the eastern Ukrainian city. This figure contradicts Moscow’s claim of only 6,000 troops lost in the war, which is higher than the official Soviet losses in the Afghanistan war. Ukraine has not publicly disclosed the number of its soldiers killed since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Analysts believe that the ferocious fight for Bakhmut has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers, including convicts who reportedly received little training before being sent to the front. The Russian invasion’s goal of “demilitarizing” Ukraine has backfired, as Kyiv’s military has become stronger with the supply of weapons and training from its Western allies. Prigozhin also conceded that Russian forces have killed civilians during the war, a claim Moscow has repeatedly denied.

Prigozhin is known for his bluster and penchant for making unverifiable claims, some of which he has later retracted. He recently published a video showing uniformed bodies, claiming they were Wagner fighters who died in a single day, and accused the Russian Defense Ministry of starving his men of ammunition and threatening to abandon the fight for Bakhmut.

Yevgeny Prigozhin (Via Yevgeny Prigozhin/Twitter)

He warned that Kyiv’s anticipated counter-offensive, bolstered by continued Western support, could push Russian forces out of southern and eastern Ukraine, as well as annexed Crimea. “A pessimistic scenario: the Ukrainians are given missiles, they prepare troops, of course they will continue their offensive, try to counter-attack,” Prigozhin said. “They will attack Crimea, they will try to blow up the Crimean bridge, cut off our supply lines. Therefore, we need to prepare for a hard war.”

Despite Russia’s claims of having captured Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces are continuing their defensive operation in the devastated city, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. Meanwhile, Russian forces have shot down a large number of drones in the southern Belgorod region, causing property damage but no reported casualties. Moscow also claimed to have repelled a major cross-border attack in the region, but details of the incident remain unclear.

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