Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says more than 20,000 of his fighters have died in the nine-month battle to take the eastern Ukrainian city, Bakhmut.
According to Prigozhin, that’s 20% of the 50,000 Russian convicts he’d hired to fight in Russia’s 15-month long invasion of its sovereign neighbor.
By contrast, Moscow has officially declared that it has lost just 6,000 troops in the entirety of the war. However, recently leaked classified Pentagon documents have revealed infighting among Russian authorities over their death toll. The Russian intelligence organization FSB had calculated nearly 110,000 casualties—both killed and wounded—by February of this year.
However, that’s still far below the estimates noted in the leaked Pentagon documents, which put Russian losses between 189,5000 and 223,000 casualties, with between 35,500 and 43,000 Russians killed in action.
Ukraine has not said how many troops have died on its side of the battle. U.S. authorities believe numbers of Ukrainian casualties posted online from the leaked Pentagon documents were likely altered.
Prigozhin—known as “Putin’s Chef” for his close ties to the Russian President and his role as a caterer to the Kremlin—also said Russian forces have killed civilians during the war, which Moscow has repeatedly denied.