Russia’s Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an interview posted on Telegram Wednesday that about 20,000 of his fighters were killed in the 224-day battle of Bakhmut.
Prigozhin said half of those who died in the brutal battle were convicts he recruited from prison. “Throughout the [entire combat] operation, I recruited 50,000 prisoners, of which about 20% died. Exactly the same number died as those who signed up through a contract,” he said, according to ZeroHedge.
The mercenary chief also estimated that 50,000 Ukrainians were killed in Bakhmut, and another 50,000 to 70,000 were wounded.
Prigozhin announced over the weekend that his forces had fully captured Bakhmut and said they will hand their positions over to regular Russian forces on May 25. His comments offer a rare glimpse into how many people may have been killed on the battlefield in Ukraine, as both Moscow and Kyiv have kept a tight lid on casualty figures.
It’s not clear how many Ukrainians were killed fighting for Bakhmut, but the number is expected to be massive. Kyiv was pouring fresh recruits into the battle, and Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the front told media outlets that they were being sent into the “meat grinder” with little support, training, or ammunition.
Toward the end of the battle of Bakhmut, Prigozhin stepped up his criticism of Russian military leadership and accused Moscow of not providing his forces with enough ammunition. In the interview posted Wednesday, he continued his criticism of Moscow, saying the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine had backfired.