ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS : The head of the Russian private army Wagner has again broken with the Kremlin line on Ukraine, saying its goal of demilitarising the country has backfired, acknowledging Russian troops have killed civilians and agreeing with Western estimates that he's lost more than 20,000 men in the battle for Bakhmut.
Yevgeny Prigozhin said about half of those who died in the eastern Ukrainian city were Russian convicts recruited for the 15-month-old war.
His figures stood in stark contrast to Moscow's widely disputed claims from that just over 6,000 of its troops were killed throughout the war as of January. By comparison, official Soviet troop losses in the 1979-89 Afghanistan war were 15,000.
Ukraine hasn't said how many of its soldiers have died since Russia's full-scale invasion began in February 2022.
White House officials said Wednesday that Prigozhin's comments were in line with their estimates that Russian losses have accelerated.
The White House estimated this month that Russian forces had suffered 100,000 casualties, including 20,000 killed in fighting, since December. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said then that about half of those killed were Wagner forces.
Analysts believe many of those killed in the nine-month fight for Bakhmut were Russian convicts with little military training.
Prigozhin himself a former convict has frequently criticized Russian military officials for not supplying his troops with enough ammunition. He also has questioned their tactics, commitment and leadership capabilities, and complained they haven't sufficiently credited his forces for battlefield successes.
He's highlighted his forces' sacrifices and on Saturday touted what he claims is the capture of the city of Bakhmut.
In an interview published late Tuesday with Konstantin Dolgov, a pro-Kremlin political strategist, he went even further in his criticism questioning some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's rationale for the war.
Prigozhin said Russia's goal of demilitarizing Ukraine has backfired because Kyiv's military has become stronger with Western weapons and training.
In invading Ukraine, Putin also cited the need to increase Russia's security and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. Since the war began, Ukraine has applied to join NATO, and cross-border attacks into Russia itself have increased.
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