The head of the Russian private army Wagner has contradicted the Kremlin, admitting Russian troop-caused civilian deaths and significant casualties, while warning of a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive and expressing concerns about Russia’s position in occupied territories.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private army Wagner, has contradicted the Kremlin’s stance on Ukraine, admitting that Russian troops have killed civilians and acknowledging significant casualties on their side. He stated that over 20,000 Wagner fighters have been lost in the battle for Bakhmut, with about half of them being Russian convicts recruited for the war. These figures sharply contrast with Moscow’s disputed claim of just over 6,000 Russian troop deaths as of January. The White House has expressed agreement with Prigozhin’s estimates and suggested that Russian losses have accelerated. Prigozhin also criticized Russian military officials for inadequate ammunition supply and questioned President Vladimir Putin’s rationale for the war, claiming that Russia’s goal of demilitarizing Ukraine has backfired. He warned of a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive and expressed concerns that continued Western support could lead to Russian forces being pushed out of occupied territories. Prigozhin’s admission of heavy losses indicates the impact of Ukraine’s strategy to exhaust and deplete Russian forces. Ukrainian forces are continuing their defensive operation in Bakhmut, and heavy fighting persists despite Russia’s claim of complete capture. Additionally, there have been further attacks and drone interceptions in a border region between Russia and Ukraine. The details of these incidents remain unclear.