Day 457: May 26
On 26 May, Prigozhin released another video with his visit to one of the bases in the deep rear and reported that most Wagner forces should be able to leave Bakhmut by 1 June. But more importantly, he raised the forbidden in the Russian-media space subject, which is the extent of losses and whether the so-called special military operation is a success or a failure.
Prigozhin claimed during an interview with Russian political strategist Konstantin Dolgov that at the beginning of the Battle for Bakhmut, the Wagner Group had 35,000 troops and that shortly after that, Prigozhin recruited 50,000 prisoners. So, the Wagner Group had 85,000 troops at their disposal.
Prigozhin claimed that during the eight months of continuous fighting, 10,000 prisoners and 10,000 full-time professional Wagner fighters were killed in action. This immediately raises suspicions because it implies that professionals were killed more easily than untrained prisoners who were used in suicidal human wave attacks. Based on Prigozhin’s figures, professionals had a 30% death rate, while prisoners had a 20% death rate.
A former Russian officer Girkin pointed out that only half of the prisoners reportedly received pardons, so it looks like Wagner lost 25,000 prisoners, not 10,000. He also speculated that other losses are 50% higher, meaning that Wagner lost 15,000 full-time professional fighters. The total number of killed in action, therefore, is estimated to be around 40,000 troops.
But this is only killed. Many soldiers get wounded. Prigozhin claimed they had as many wounded as killed, so also 40,000. This makes the total number of losses to be around 80,000.
So, at the beginning of the Battle for Bakhmut, Wagner had 85,000 troops, and at the end, only 5,000. This means that Ukrainians have achieved their objective of destroying the most capable elements of the Russian army ahead of the counteroffensive operation.
Interestingly, the losses are totally consistent with the changes in the length of the front line under their responsibility: in mid-winter, Wagners were responsible for 85 km of the front, while during the last month, they were responsible for less than 5 km of the front. That is why Prigozhin wants to get his forces out of the combat zone for a few months – this way, he can at least wait until the wounded heal and return to the ranks.
Most people understand that official losses are always understated, so when Prigozhin made official numbers so high, a former Russian officer Girkin immediately told Prigozhin to keep his mouth shut and stop talking about wild losses for a very insignificant result.
Unfortunately for Russians, Prigozhin also went in full-depth discussing the insignificance of the results. He said that the whole special military operation was a complete failure because Russians achieved completely opposite results to the stated objectives.
When it comes to the goal of denazification, first of all, he said that they fought with tens of thousands of soldiers and are still in search of Nazis, and secondly, the war has catalyzed and solidified Ukrainian national identity and also legitimized Ukrainians as a nation internationally because everyone around the world is discussing the war in Ukraine.
When it comes to the goal of demilitarization, Ukraine’s armed forces increased from about 250,000 personnel before the war to 700,000 personnel today, and Ukrainian forces are now equipped with advanced Western anti-tank ground missiles, precision artillery, long-range missiles, modern tanks, and other systems that Ukraine did not have before Russia’s invasion. Prigozhin said that now Ukraine has one of the most powerful armies in the world. He specified that Ukrainians had developed the highest level of organization, highest levels of preparation, and highest levels of reconnaissance and that they could fight with anything: from old soviet weapons to the most modern ones produced and supplied by the Western allies.
- Head of Russian Wagner troops said his units started “relocating” from Bakhmut to the rear
- Russians replace troops in Bakhmut, reinforce flanks as Ukraine keeps holding city’s small portion – Defense Ministry
- Frontline report: Ukrainian drones successfully attack Russian intelligence ship and military objects
- Frontline report: Ukraine strikes Russian troop in Belgorod region with drones, targets ammunition warehouses along the frontline
- Frontline report: Russia relocates forces to Belgorod after two days of insurgent fighting
- Frontline report: Ukraine’s Russian units capture some 35 km² in Russia’s border region
- Frontline report: Russian mechanized assaults fail in the Avdiivka direction