Ukrainian casualties during the battle for Artyomovsk were several times higher than Russian ones, Evgeny Prigozhin has claimed
The head of the Wagner private military company, Evgeny Prigozhin, has revealed that the group lost around 20,000 servicemen during the liberation of the strategic Donbass city of Artyomovsk, also known as Bakhmut, from Ukrainian forces.
In an interview published by Wagner's press service on Tuesday, Prigozhin said that during the long-running battle he had boosted the company's ranks with 50,000 inmates from Russian prisons, who were offered the chance to fight instead of completing their sentences.
"Around 20% of them have died," Prigozhin said. "The casualties among them were the same as among those who enlisted by contract with us."
This suggests that Wagner's losses in Artyomovsk, which is a key settlement in Russia's Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), amounted to some 10,000 former prisoners and 10,000 military professionals.
Around 20% of Wagner's forces had also received injuries that would require at least three months to recover from, Prigozhin stated.
However, he insisted that the Ukrainian military had suffered far greater losses in what he previously called "the Bakhmut meat-grinder."
"We've destroyed 50,000 troops of the Ukrainian armed forces [in Artyomovsk]," the Wagner chief claimed, adding that another 50,000 to 70,000 had been seriously wounded.
Prigozhin announced on Saturday that the operation to take control of Artyomovsk, which had been spearheaded by Wagner, had ended and that the city had been "fully captured." The battle for the major logistics hub had been fought for 224 days, he added.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed later the same day that the city had been taken, with President Vladimir Putin congratulating Wagner servicemen and regular Russian military troops on their success.
Ukraine, which previously claimed that Artyomovsk would be defended at any cost and would become a turning point in the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, has thus far refused to admit the loss of the city.
On Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said that the settlement "is only in our hearts" when asked by US counterpart Joe Biden at the G7 summit in Japan if Kiev still controlled Artyomovsk. A few hours later, Zelensky changed his stance and denied that the settlement was "occupied by Russia."