New Casualty Numbers in Ukraine War Are Astounding

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The grinding battle of Bakhmut in Ukraine continues to produce a brutal number of casualties. The Wagner Group, a private military company with deep ties to the Russian government, has borne the brunt of the deaths. Its leader, the former criminal Yevgeny Prigozhin, has announced that his outfit sustained 20,000 deaths, the Guardian reports. In contrast, the United States lost 14,500 Americans in 20 years of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, counting both regular troops and contractors.

Half of the 100,000 Wagner fighters are prisoners offered their freedom in exchange for participating in grinding assaults, with the other half regular recruits. On his Telegram channel, Prigozhin warned that such high rates of attrition could precipitate a Revolution as was the case during World War I when the Russian Empire sustained tremendous casualties against the German Empire. A recent incursion into Russia itself by pro-Ukraine Russian militias has added to the confusion of quasi-independent groups operating more or less on their own in the chaotic Ukrainian battlefield.

Russia’s use of various groups to conduct war in Ukraine reflects both a resource problem but also a long standing Russian tradition to divide its centers of power to prevent a coup d’état. In addition to the Wagner mercenaries, Russia has been using its regular troops, Spetsnaz, and National Guard which usually conducts police operations. Under the direction of local leader Ramzan Kadyrov, it has also called upon special troops from Chechnya, feared for their brutal tactics.


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