The head of Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said his fighters have sometimes spent weeks trying to capture a single house in the disputed main city of Bakhmut in the Donbass, in the latest evidence of how the Kremlin’s efforts there have stalled.
In a grim video released over the New Year, Prigozhin — a key Putin ally — is filmed visiting a bunker near the Eastern Front filled with the corpses of his fighters, many of them convicts, killed during the bitter fight for the city. , which has been a major Russian target since the summer.
In the makeshift morgue, Prigozhin is seen showing dead bodies on stretchers and in body bags. A pile of packed corpses can be seen stacked at shoulder height in the corner of one of the rooms.
Prigozhin can be heard saying: “Their contract is up, they’re going home next week,” adding: “These are getting ready to serve. We’re all working through New Year’s Eve.”
Here lie the Wagner fighters killed at the front. They are now being put in zinc coffins and will go home.”
As more bodies emerge from a truck, Prigozhin can be heard giving New Year’s greetings.
Wagner played a key role in the Russian offensive against Bakhmut, with the Guardian interviewing Ukrainian soldiers saying that Wagner fighters are often used as shock troops in frontal attacks on their positions, while the more recently mobilized Russians are deployed in more defensive roles.
While Ukrainian sources and Russian military blogs have long indicated that Wagner took heavy losses in the months-long offensive, the footage—and Prigozhin’s commentary—highlighted the sheer scale of the attrition.
In a second video from his visit to the Eastern Front, Prigozhin confirmed the difficulties his forces were facing. “Everyone wants to know when we’re going to pick up [Bakhmut]He explains, using the Russian name for the city, Artemovsk.
“In Artemovsk, every house has become a fortress. Our guys sometimes fight for more than one day over one house. Sometimes they fight for weeks over one house. And behind this house there is still a new line of defense, not a single one. And how many such lines of defense are in Artemovsk? Five hundred probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
An unnamed Wagner soldier whom Prigozhin meets complains about the difficulties they face there. We don’t have enough equipment, we don’t have enough BMP3 [armoured cars] and missiles.”
In a separate clip from Bakhmut filmed on January 2, a Ukrainian soldier named Kyani describes the ongoing fighting. Amidst the sound of shelling, he describes how fighters in his sector of the city repelled several large-scale attacks on the city he calls “the Citadel.”
They come like insects. We had to resupply ammunition several times… The line of defense is standing firm.”
The latest fighting in the east came as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was preparing to step up its attacks on the country using Iranian-made drones.
We have information that Russia is planning a prolonged attack by a witness [exploding drones]Zelensky said in his late-night video address on Monday.
He said the aim was to break Ukraine’s resistance by “wearing out our people, [our] Air defense, our energy”, more than 10 months after Russia invaded its neighbor.
Zelensky was speaking after the Russian president, Russian President Vladimir Putinhe appears to be exploring ways to regain momentum in his flawed war effort, which has been stymied in recent months by a Russian-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive. Weapons supplied from the West.
In the latest embarrassment for the Kremlin, Ukrainian forces fired missiles at a facility in the eastern Donetsk region where Russian soldiers were stationed, 63 of them were killedAccording to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Other unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher.
It was one of the deadliest attacks on Kremlin forces since the war began more than 10 months ago.
In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said that in the attack, Ukrainian forces fired six missiles from the HIMARS launch system, two of which were shot down.
However, the Directorate of Strategic Communications of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Sunday claimed that about 400 Russian soldiers mobilized in a vocational school building in Makievka were killed, and about 300 others were injured. This claim cannot be independently verified.
The Russian statement said the strike took place “in the Makievka area” and did not mention the vocational school.
Many of the conscripts killed and wounded in the attack came from the southwestern Samara region, according to Governor Dmitry Azarov, who asked families to contact local military offices for more information.
An Orthodox memorial service was held in central Samarra on Tuesday morning, and flowers were laid at a Soviet-era war memorial in the city.
In many of the social media groups used by Samara locals, relatives of the recruits kept looking for information about their whereabouts.
“No one picks up the phone at the military service office. How can I find out if my son is still alive,” wrote one woman.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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