As of May 20 of this year, 22,000 Wagner fighters had been killed in Russia’s war in Ukraine — close to a quarter of the total number of the paramilitary group’s troops who’ve fought in the country — according to a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel.
“A total of 78,000 PMC Wagner fighters participated in the Ukrainian mission,” said a statement posted late Wednesday on the “Wagner Loading” channel, which appears to be close to the group’s mutinous leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“At the time of the capture of Bakhmut (20 May), 22,000 fighters were killed, 40,000 wounded,” the statement said.
U.S. intelligence said in February that Wagner had at that point suffered 30,000 casualties in Ukraine, including 9,000 deaths.
Troops from the Wagner Group have been involved in some of the fiercest fighting in Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — particularly in taking the eastern town of Bakhmut.
But after Prigozhin launched a mutiny against the Russian military leadership last month and marched thousands of his men to within 200 kilometers of Moscow, the Kremlin cracked down on the paramilitary group, which is now fractured.
Under a deal struck with the Kremlin and Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, Wagner fighters involved in the mutiny were given the option of either disarming and going home, going into exile in Belarus, or signing contracts with the Russian defense ministry. Russian MP Vladimir Shamanov, who is a retired colonel general of the Russian Armed Forces, claimed in an interview on Wednesday that 33,000 Wagnerites had opted for the latter and joined the Russian army.
But the statement published on the Wagner Loading channel, which was republished in Prigozhin’s own comms channel and is thus being widely attributed to the mutinous warlord, takes aim at that figure.
“Here’s the real math,” the statement said. “A total of 78,000 PMC Wagner fighters participated in the Ukrainian mission. Of these, 49,000 were prisoners from the camps. At the time of the capture of Bakhmut (20 May), 22,000 fighters were killed, 40,000 wounded. 25,000 [are currently] alive and healthy, plus the wounded in treatment. Of those, up to 10,000 have left and are leaving for Belarus. 15,000 have already gone on leave. I don’t know where the 33,000 who left for the military came from. If all those who were killed and are on leave have signed contracts, then it’s possible.”
Earlier on Wednesday, in a video message posted to the same Telegram channel, Prigozhin announced that Wagner’s troops would not go back to fighting in Ukraine, but instead stay in Belarus for “a while” to train the local forces.
He also hinted they might then head for Africa, where the paramilitary group has been active for years — notably in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Source : POLITICO