The head of the Wagner mercenary force has said that 20,000 of its fighters have been killed in the battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and warned that Russia could face another revolution if its leadership did not improve its handling of the war.
Yevgeny Prigozhin said 20% of the 50,000 convicts Wagner had recruited, and a similar number of its regular troops had been killed over several months in the fight for Bakhmut.
Prigozhin pointed to the social disparity underlined by the war, with the sons of the poor being sent back from the front in zinc coffins while the children of the elite “shook their arses” in the sun.
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“This divide can end as in 1917 with a revolution,” he said in an interview posted on his channel on the Telegram messaging app. “First the soldiers will stand up, and after that – their loved ones will rise up. There are already tens of thousands of them – relatives of those killed. And there will probably be hundreds of thousands – we cannot avoid that.”
Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef” because he once provided catering services to the Russian leader, but he said that “Putin’s butcher” would be a more fitting nickname. He claimed his men now control all of Bakhmut – a claim disputed by the Kyiv government, which insists its forces still have a foothold in the ruined Donbas city – but he warned that Wagner would pull out at the beginning of next month.
Prigozhin was speaking after two Russian rebel militias, by the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Free Russian Legion, had made a dramatic incursion into the Belgorod region along Ukraine’s northern border, crossing into Russia with apparent ease, although the Wagner boss did not refer directly to the raid.