Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin reveals that 20,000 of his fighters were killed at Bakhmut and says Putin’s war has backfired.
Russia’s Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has given a rare and revealing interview with pro-Moscow blogger Konstantin Dolgov, fresh off the weekend declaration of victory over Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east.
“PMC Wagner completely liberated Artyomovsk [Bakhmut],” Prigozhin said, and for the first time made public how many Wagner fighters both participated and died in the campaign, which he previously said was 224 days of fighting. He revealed that the mercenary group lost 20,000 fighters in total at Bakhmut, half of which were convicts who had been recruited from prisons.
Prigozhin said in the interview which was published late Tuesday, “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 described that an equal number of the Wagner deceased at Bakhmut had signed up with the St. Petersburg-based firm through regular means, or had already long been under contract.
He also continued to make remarks which will be seen as hugely provocative by the regular Russian military command and inside the Kremlin. “If PMC Wagner cannot hand the positions because the Russian army is not ready to take them over, then this means that PMC Wagner has risen to a level higher than the Russian army,” he said, also reaffirming that his forces will hand captured territory over to the military on June 1st.
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“If they [the army] cannot take over [the positions], then the persons concerned must shoot themselves,” Prigozhin added. “There was only Wagner here [in Bakhmut],” he had early declared in a video posted to Wagner channels on Saturday.
“We fought not only the Ukrainian army here, we fought Russian bureaucracy,” Prigozhin asserted, which is a similar them he echoed from the fight for nearby Soledar.
According to the Russian state news agency TASS, Putin has warned Biden not to send F-16s to Ukraine after the U.S. expressed support for a joint international effort to train Ukrainian pilots in using modern fighter aircraft, including F-16s.