by SIMPLICIUS THE THINKER
Two days ago Prigozhin released a nearly two hour interview where he gave a frank assessment of Wagner troops’ losses in Bakhmut.
There are several variations working their way around the net and being posted because Prigozhin gave the casualty figures in a variety of sometimes confusing, indirect methods.
This is roughly how he broke it down:
- AFU had 50,000 KIA, with upwards of 70,000 severely injured.
- Wagner had 3.2 times fewer dead in general, which is another way of saying that the final kill ratio was 1:3.2 in Wagner’s favor.
- Wagner had 50,000 members at its peak at any one time, the AFU had 82,000 in Bakhmut
- Out of 50,000 total ex-convict members who went through the ranks, 20% of them died, which is 10,000 KIA just from the ex-con battalions
Now the next part is a little confusing, as some are deriving different numbers from it. On one hand he said that Wagner suffered 3.2 less deaths than the AFU, which suffered 50,000. This would put the total Wagner deaths at 15,600, which, given the above statement, would comprise 10,000 convicts and 5000+ regular contract Wagnerians.
However, other people are reporting 20,000 total KIA based on a different way he worded one of the figures in another segment. Either way it appears to indicate somewhere in the 15-20k KIA for Wagner vs. 50k for the AFU, with wounded also being much less than the AFU.
My own estimate for Wagner’s losses has been in the 5-10k range, and if pressed I would have probably guessed in the middle, at 7k. However, there is some reason, at least according to some people, to believe that Prigozhin could be exaggerating the deaths for political reasons. This would not be out of the ordinary for him, after all recall the stunt he pulled in showing the dead Wagner bodies multiple times to try to really emphasize the losses in a way that some perceived as almost gloating at the number of dead.
For instance, from Donbass Devushka’s channel comes this opinion:
Per this post we reported what Prigozhin said but I wanted to say that, in my personal opinion, he is full of it on this matter.
Mediazona, which is looking for ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING was able to identify at most slightly more than 4,000 prisoners KIA and 1,575 Wagner ‘regulars’ over the course of this 15 month war. Also the prison population of Russia in 2019 was 467,000 (https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/osw-commentary/2019-02-07/russia-behind-bars-peculiarities-russian-prison-system). I highly doubt Prigozhin got to recruit over 10% of the prison population or even that there were 50,000 prisoners who would even meet Wagner’s admittedly not particularly strict but not exactly carefree standards. As to exact AFU KIA numbers – nobody knows what they are. In view of the pictures we get from new cemetries and what can be observed on the battlefield though both identifable personnel and vehicles losses we can safely say “substantially higher than the Russians by order of magnitude” but that gives us rough ideas, nothing so precise as what Prigozhin says.
Prigozhin has an agenda, and he is angling here for political power and saying that he can fix what is broken. In view of what we posted today from the Ministry of Defense demonstrating substantial Ukrainian losses due to their Belgorod incursion, I at least am not so convinced that the regular Russian military is broken. One of the Generals Prigozhin derides, General Alexander Lapin, led this action himself, from the front. He killed a lot of the Nazis without losing any of his guys, expelled the invaders and recorded it all to ensure that not only were they defeated but also humiliated.
They bring up some good points, citing real statistics, including the fact that MediaZona was only able to verify a tiny fraction of such deaths.
The other thing that attests to this possibility is that, in the very same interview, Prigozhin went on a hyperbolic rant about how Russia has “militarized” rather than “demilitarized” Ukraine thus far. Ok, it’s a fair point as a generality. But then he starts spouting numbers that are clearly hyperbolic bait. For instance: “They had 500 tanks at the beginning, now they have 5,000. They had 20,000 soldiers, now they have 400,000.”
All of these figures are categorically wrong, and laughably so. Ukraine had far more than 500 tanks, and they certainly don’t have even a fraction of 5,000 now. Ukraine didn’t “start with 20k” troops at the beginning of the SMO either. It’s well known they had at least 200k. So, how much to believe from Prigozhin who clearly tries to inflate everything Ukraine does to drive home his political points. Would he inflate Wagner’s own casualties to do so?
For those wondering, what political point is he making? Well, he also goes into detail about cleansing ‘Russia’s ranks’ and who he would appoint for the various MOD positions (Mizintsev and Surovikin, for those wondering), wink, wink. Is he giving us a clue here? As to his presidential aspirations, perhaps? It would serve him well to present himself as the wise and noble savior of a decadent Russia.
Anyway, we don’t know if he’s referring to Bakhmut only, or Soledar as well, where a Wagner commander once stated that the AFU lost 10,000 alone.
In this video, ex-Russian GRU and Wagner commander ‘Lotus’, whom I talked about before as being possibly the theater commander of Bakhmut, stated in this earlier interview that the Wagner to AFU loss ratio was 1:6 or 1:7 in favor of Wagner. And this is the guy that would know far better, as he’s an actual awarded commander who creates the tactics and strategies and leads the troops on the frontline, rather than Prigozhin who acts more as the ‘CEO’ and spokesperson.
What it could mean is either:
- Prigozhin’s numbers are off or
- Wagner’s casualties took a sharp upturn during the last bit of Bakhmut, which is for obvious reasons very believable. After all, it’s what appeared to send Prigozhin into apoplectic rage. Whether it was the late diminution of ammo he spoke of which led to this, or simply the climactic, tooth-and-nail nature of the battles for the final quarters of the city, where a tenacious AFU tried desperately to hang on by pouring everything they had into it.
Recall that this AFU officer admitted they lose two companies per day in Bakhmut. The Bakhmut battle was said to go nearly 250 days and if we give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume their companies are very understaffed, perhaps we can get something like 300-400 men lost per day x 250 = 75,000 – 100,000.
Either way, we likely have a good base floor and ceiling for roughly where their losses are.
The other interesting thing this scenario presents however, is that both Ukraine supporters and 5th columnist 2D bloggers are now put in a bit of a conundrum. You see, they spent months taking Prigozhin’s word as gospel. Telling us how much of a rarity his frank and unvarnished honesty is, amongst the Russian military. All the woes and internecine squabbles he raged about were reported as unequivocal fact, and anyone who dared challenge Prigozhin’s heroic anti-establishment, salt-of-the-earth honesty was deemed a ‘Kremlin apologist’.
So now: where do they stand? The Ukro-supporters and 5th columnists claimed Ukraine had a lopsided KIA ratio disparity against Wagner and it was in fact Wagner that was being slaughtered by the thousands in endless waves of ‘meat assaults’. The AFU was supposed to have only suffered a minor flesh wound by comparison, maybe 2-3k dead or less. But instead, he revealed with frank honesty, higher Wagner losses than expected, but even much higher AFU ones. Is Prigozhin now suddenly a liar? Will they hand pick the numbers they want to use? “Well he must be lying about the AFU’s numbers, but look over there at how many Wagners have died!”
It’ll be interesting to see them squirm through the cognitive dissonance to explain away that contradiction. You can’t have it both ways, either he’s a liar or his truth is gospel.
But this hypocritical double standard is a common tactic for Western supporters. To wit, note that even with Strelkov, the West conveniently picked and chose facts that fit their narrative: Back when the Donbass war was started in 2014, Strelkov was ‘definitely a Russian FSB/GRU’ agent working for the Kremlin who can’t be trusted.
Now that Strelkov happens to be spewing some doom-and-gloom that comports with Western narrative, he’s suddenly a sterling and proven commander who certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to war, so his opinion that Russia is losing must surely be the truth. Not to mention they now support the position that he was a lone wolf who went rogue all along, proving the disingenuous inconsistency that plagues the dishonest Western commentators.
Either way, if Prigozhin’s numbers are true, my own sensible estimate was certainly much closer to the reality than the wildly exaggerated figures of most West/Ukraine supporters and 5th columnists, who claimed anywhere between 50-100k Wagners were killed in Bakhmut.
For what it’s worth, Prigozhin added the following words:
“PMC Wagner has no exhaustion. More than 10.000 people join to Wagner every month,” Prigozhin for the American magazine Newsweek.
On the other hand, the mystery surrounding Kiev’s losses in general continues to grow with every hour. A French outlet recently made waves when they reported that they’ve lost contact with 40-60% of the AFU personnel who’ve trained in France in 2022, concluding that: “We think they’ve already died in battle.”
💀 “The data on Ukraine’s losses remain Zelensky’s biggest secret,” write the French outlet Valerus.
Questions to the military authorities of Ukraine on this issue “cause their anger,” say those journalists who “risk into it.”
– However, from 40 to 60% of Ukrainian military personnel who were trained in France in 2022 no longer get in touch, according to a Valerus source. “We think most are silent because they have already died in battle.”
“There is no doubt that the number of dead and injured has risen sharply since the end of the summer.”
– “After about ten waves of mobilization, the number of those who can serve under the blue-and-yellow flag has noticeably decreased.”
“The nine brigades reconstituted with NATO assistance to prepare for the spring offensive have between 2,500 and 3,000 men each, while there should be between 5,000 and 8,000.”
Putins strategy all along has been a war of attrition which favors Russia. It appears from simplicius the advantage is with Putin