In the Ukraine war, the Wagner Group likes to portray itself as a brutal, successful force. But the meager conquests that the mercenaries manage cost many lives. New information shows 9 out of 10 Wagner fighters die.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin celebrated last week that his troop of mercenaries had taken the small town of Soledar at the gates of the embattled Bakhmut. For a long time now, “Putin’s cook” has acted as a strong second man in Russia. His gang, as he puts it, is the only one that was successful in the Ukraine war. What the stale Russian army can’t do, its brutal mercenaries can.
To do this, Prigozhin mainly throws recruits from Russian prisons onto the battlefield – or rather, into the meat grinder. Because with the largely manageable successes of the Wagner mercenaries, many fighters die. Recently there had been several reports that the conquest of Soledar demanded a massive toll in blood. It will be difficult to maintain the conquests for long, it said.
Now it becomes clear how high the losses really are. Military historian Chris Owen quotes from a Russian Telegram channel: “270 convicts were recruited by Wagner in a colony in Bashkir. Only 30 of them are still alive.”
These are figures that also correspond to older information from this war. Prigozhin’s promise – impunity after a successful fight – is only fulfilled for a few prisoners. For the others – who are often sent to the front lines without training or combat experience – only death awaits them in Ukraine.
Prigozhin himself seems to be benefiting from the fact that he has long since built up a shadow army. But in the end his striving for power suffered a setback. According to an insider, Prigozhin had hoped to replace the deposed supreme commander Gerasimov with a man from his ranks.
But Putin – who constantly has to mediate between the Wagner troops and the Ministry of Defense – avoided him, of all things after what Prigozhin saw as a successful battle for Soledar. The insider says: “After Soledar, everything went exactly the opposite of Prigozhin’s plan. Everything turned against him and Wagner.”