Putin loses 100,000 soldiers in just five months in failed siege of Bakhmut, says US – as Wagner chief hints at retreat
RUSSIA has suffered more than 100,000 casualties in the bloody battle for Bakhmut in the last five months, the White House says.
The US predicts over 20,000 Russian troops have been killed and another 80,000 wounded trying to take the small eastern Ukrainian city that’s seen the fiercest fighting of the war so far.
In the battered and besieged city in the Donetsk region, which only has a few thousand brave residents left, Russia has been trying to break the stale-mate in a gruelling and heavy-casualty war of attrition.
Yet, Ukraine has held on to the city for dear life and managed to stave off encirclement by a Russian onslaught backed by Wagner mercenaries.
The US’s National Security spokesperson, John Kirby, announced on Monday: “We estimate that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including over 20,000 killed in action.”
“Russia’s attempt at an offensive in the Donbass, largely through Bakhmut, has failed… Russia has been unable to seize any really strategically significant territory,” he told reporters.
Kirby, citing newly declassified US intelligence, said that about half of those killed were Wagner militia soldiers, which draws much of its ranks from prison populations in Russia.
The US toll from fighting accounts for losses since the start of December according to the US figures, however the battle for the city has been waging for over nine months.
Kirby continued his speech saying: “This attempted effort, particularly in Bakhmut, has come at a terribly, terribly high cost. Russia has exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces.”
Ukrainian soldiers have previously described the fighting in Bakhmut as a hellscape of World War One-style slaughter as Wagner’s largely convict army was thrown into the “meat grinder” and used as mere “cannon fodder”.
The fighting has become even more intense in recent months as Bakhmut remains the key battle of the war for Putin.
Yet, even Wagner’s brutal chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has threatened to withdraw his fighters from the city in a move that reflects the growing discontent within Putin’s faltering army.
The warlord pinned Russia’s “unjustified” losses in Bakhmut, which are five times higher than across the rest of Ukraine, on the Kremlin’s failure to provide ample ammunition in a live broadcast.
“It would have been five times fewer if we had more ammunition,” said Prigozhin, accusing Russian soldiers of not providing his men with the necessary equipment.
“Are we going to remain here or not,” asked Prigozhin, before vowing:”we are going to attack Bakhmut to our last bullet, but these munitions are not even enough for a week, mere days.
“And so if the munitions deficit is not addressed we will be required…not to run like cowardly rats [but] to either retreat, or remain to die,” he adds.
Last week it was also alleged that Ukraine still has control on a vital supply route to the city known as the “road of life”.
For several weeks Moscow has been making noises about seizing the road, however Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east said the defending troops “have not allowed the Russians to cut off our logistics”.
Kirby did not give estimates of Ukrainian casualties in Bakhmut, stating the reason was because “they are the victims here. Russia is the aggressor.”
The White House, he said, will not put “information in the public domain that makes it any harder” for the close Western ally whose army is being armed and trained by a US-led coalition of countries.