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Bakhmut’s claimed 100k Russians in five months, says US

The White House says Russia’s offensive attack in Bakhmut over the past five months has failed and cost them more than 100,000 soldiers.

May 2, 2023
By Steve Holland and Katharine Jackson
2 May 2023

The White House estimates that Russia’s military has suffered 100,000 casualties in the last five months in fighting against Ukraine in the Bakhmut region.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters the figure, based on US intelligence estimates, included more than 20,000 dead, half of them from the Wagner mercenary group, which includes convicts released from prison to join the fighting.

“Russia’s attempt at an offensive in the Donbas largely through Bakhmut has failed,” Kirby said. “Russia has been unable to seize any real strategic and significant territory.”

He said the Russians have made some incremental gains in Bakhmut but that this has come at a “terrible, terrible cost” and that Ukraine’s defences in the region remain strong.

“Russia has exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces and since December alone, we estimate that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including over 20,000 killed in action, nearly half of whom were Wagner soldiers,” he said.

“It’s really stunning, these numbers,” Kirby added, saying the total is three times the number of American casualties in the Guadalcanal campaign in World War Two.

Kirby said another US weapons package for Ukraine would be announced soon.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian counterattacks have ousted Russian forces from some positions in the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut, but the situation remains “difficult”, a top Ukrainian general said in comments published on Monday.

During the past few months the battle for Bakhmut has become the fulcrum of a conflict that has seen little shift in front lines since late last year, leaving both sides looking for a breakthrough.

“The situation is quite difficult,” said Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of ground forces, in a statement on Telegram.

“At the same time, in certain parts of the city, the enemy was counterattacked by our units and left some positions,” he said while visiting front-line troops on Sunday.

New Russian units, including paratroopers and fighters from the Wagner mercenary group, are being “constantly thrown into battle” despite taking heavy losses, he said, adding: “But the enemy is unable to take control of the city.”

The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a video posted on his Telegram channel on Monday that his fighters needed some 300 tonnes of artillery shells a day for the assault on Bakhmut but were receiving only a third of that amount.

“Three hundred tonnes a day is 10 cargo containers – not a lot at all,” said Prigozhin, who has often clashed with Russia’s defence establishment over its conduct of the war in Ukraine and what he says is insufficient support for his fighters.

Russian forces have steadily made incremental gains in Bakhmut, but a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Sunday it was still possible to supply the defenders with food, ammunition and medicine.

Ukraine said on Monday its forces had repelled more than 36 enemy attacks on the part of the eastern frontline that stretches from Bakhmut to Maryinka, just west of Donetsk.

Kyiv is widely expected soon to launch a counteroffensive to retake swathes of territory in the east and south that was occupied by Russian forces following the invasion 15 months ago.

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