March 4. 2024. 9:57

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Russia-Ukraine war: Wagner Group has suffered ‘over 30,000 casualties’ in Ukraine

The Russian mercenary company Wagner Group has suffered more than 30,000 casualties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, with about 9,000 of those fighters killed in action, the White House said on Friday.

The United States estimates that 90 per cent of Wagner group soldiers killed in Ukraine since December were convicts, White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a regular briefing.

Half of the overall deaths occurred since mid-December, as fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut intensified, an NSC spokesperson said, citing newly downgraded intelligence.

Mr Kirby said mercenary group had made incremental gains in Bakhmut in and around Bakhmut over the last few days, but those had taken many months to achieve and came at a “devastating cost that is not sustainable.”

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Russia-Ukraine war: Wagner Group has suffered ‘over 30,000 casualties’ in Ukraine


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"It is possible that they may end up being successful in Bakhmut, but it will prove of no real worth to them because it is of no real strategic value," he said, adding that Ukrainian forces would maintain strong defensive lines across the Donbas region.

Mr Kirby told reporters that Wagner continued to rely heavily on convicts, who were sent to war with no training or equipment, despite recent comments from Wagner’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin that he had stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has demanded that western allies adopt a united front to expedite arms deliveries to his country, warning “it is speed on which life depends”.

Speaking by video link at the opening of the three-day Munich Security Conference, he likened Ukraine to a biblical David battling a Russian Goliath who “won’t be defeated by the power of conversation but the power of actions, by the courage of the sling”.

“Courage is what we have but the sling should get stronger,” he said.

On the first day of the three-day conference, attended by leaders, diplomats and security experts from around the world, public rhetoric of support for Ukraine after a year of conflict is matched by private talk of war fatigue, spiralling defence budgets and longer-term implications.

In a follow-up address, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin was “planning for a long war” and that it would deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks “very soon”.

To maintain European unity on supplies of arms and equipment, as well as additional training for Ukrainian soldiers, the chancellor urged the EU to “pull together strategically when it comes to arms policy”.

Echoing that call, French president Emmanuel Macron said creating a “durable, credible peace” required closer EU co-operation on defence spending. – additional reporting Reuters