US baffled by ‘amount of Russian blood’ Wagner Group has spilled to capture Bakhmut

Russia Ukraine Wagner
Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin attends the funeral of Dmitry Menshikov, a fighter of the Wagner group who died during a special operation in Ukraine, at the Beloostrovskoye cemetery outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo) AP

US baffled by ‘amount of Russian blood’ Wagner Group has spilled to capture Bakhmut

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The Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group, is leading the Russians’ war in the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine, which has resulted in significant numbers of casualties.

Wagner, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, has roughly 50,000 members deployed to Ukraine, and approximately 40,000 of those are convicts who had been taken from their prisons to the front lines of the war, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said late last month. Kirby said at the time that they had lost roughly 1,000 soldiers in recent weeks, as about 90% of them were convicts.

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Putin “has been relying on Wagner to lead combat operations in parts of the Donbas, and in certain instances, Russian military officials are actually subordinate to Wagner’s command,” Kirby explained, adding that the group is “emerging as a rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian ministries.”

Prigozhin, who has emerged as a major figure with the Russian armed forces’ operations in Ukraine, recently outlined how difficult their progress has been in Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region.

“The lads are fighting over every house, sometimes for more than a day,” he told state media RIA Novosti. “Sometimes it takes them weeks to capture a house. They take one house, they take another.”

A senior Biden administration official described the situation in the area as “quite a lot of vicious fighting,” in which Russia is making some “incremental progress” at “great cost to themselves.”

It’s “clear that Russia’s military took a backseat to the Wagner forces and they began attacking Bakhmut in late May,” the official told reporters on Wednesday. “And here we are early January. And it’s just really a lot of Russian blood spilled there over Bakhmut, specifically with respect to Prigozhin’s personal involvement and an intense focus on this.”

The Wagner Group has “basically put a lot of effort into that Bakhmut, and the Ukrainians are still fighting bravely for it,” the official continued. “The outcome is uncertain right now. Ukrainians have been fighting quite bravely for this. But it is curious the amount of Russian blood that Prigozhin has been willing to spend and to spill over Bakhmut. Again, we’ll see where this goes. Fight has gone back and forth even over recent days, but the Russians have made incremental progress.”

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Kirby said last month that Prigozhin is “literally throwing bodies into the meat grinder.”

The Institute for the Study of War reported in its most recent update, on Tuesday, that Prigozhin was setting the stage to blame either the Russian military or the Russian military-industrial base for their lack of success in Bakhmut. The report said it was the first time Prigozhin acknowledged his troops were “making effectively no gains” and called the moment “a significant inflection” for the group’s leader.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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