Now that things have settled down in and around Artyomovsk, it is worth taking a step back and looking at the numbers involved in the Bakhmut meatgrinder. I am not exaggerating when I say that the Russians quite literally called it “Operation: MEATGRINDER” in their official documents. Just take a look at the medals the Wagner boys received for their participation in what was up to this point the largest battle of the SMO.
You can see the actual medals in the bottom right picture from the embedded Telegram post:
The text of that medal says the following:
“8th October 2022 commanded by PMC <<Wagner>> and General S. V. Surovikin, a decision was made about the start of Operation <<Bakhmut Meatgrinder>> with the purpose of saving of the Russian Army and the honour of Russia”.
That pretty much tells you exactly what the entire operation was all about. The entire intention, all along, was to destroy the fighting strength of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
That is PRECISELY what the operation achieved. Simplicius the Thinker outlined the overall losses of the AFU in the fighting, and I have gone over those numbers before. Basically, the Wagner ORKestra destroyed or crippled at least 80,000 Ukrainians – and actually, the numbers are much worse than that, for the khokhols.
In terms of Russian losses, there is some dispute as to the numbers. Evgeniy Prigozhin outlined the overall losses suffered by Wagner, and the losses it inflicted on the Ukrainians, in some detail:
The head of Russia’s Wagner Group, Evgeny Prigozhin, has revealed that his private military company lost around 20,000 servicemen during the fight for the strategic Donbass city of Artyomovsk, also known as Bakhmut. He further claimed that Kiev had suffered some 50,000 fatalities during what has been described as the biggest battle of the 21st century so far.
In an interview published by Wagner’s press service on Tuesday, Prigozhin said he had boosted the company’s ranks with 50,000 inmates from Russian prisons during the long-running battle. They were offered a chance to fight instead of completing their sentences. He added that there was even split between prisoners and volunteers among the dead, accounting for about 10,000 losses each.
Around 20% of Wagner’s forces had also received injuries that would require at least three months to recover from, Prigozhin stated.
However, he insisted that the Ukrainian military had suffered far greater losses in what he previously called “the Bakhmut meat-grinder.”
“We’ve destroyed 50,000 troops of the Ukrainian armed forces [in Artyomovsk],” the Wagner chief claimed, adding that another 50,000 to 70,000 had been seriously wounded.
That RT article comes from what Prigozhin said on his own Telegram channel. I follow that channel, along with a few others in Russian, which spread those numbers. Here is an English translation of his words, directly from Telegram:
I must say here and now that I find Prigozhin’s estimates of his own organisation’s casualties to be highly suspect. And I am not the only one.
Prigozhin’s statement indicates that Wagner lost around 15-20K dead in Bakhmut – a horrendous number, given the total number of Russian dead up to about December were estimated at around 16K, based on the best available open-source data. This effectively doubles the losses of the entire Russian military in the SMO, in the space of around four months.
However, the Mediazona/BBC joint project looking at open-source data on Russian deaths in the SMO indicates absolutely nothing of the sort. Based on the best available data, the Russians suffered around 23K dead as of May 20th, including around 4,000 prisoners.
Prigozhin’s numbers with respect to the size of the Wagner group also make no sense. He says he recruited around 50K prisoners from Russian prisons – yet the Russian prison data itself, even when using the most strongly biased anti-Russian sources, does not show anything like that steep a drop in their inmate counts.
The Meduza project is an extremely anti-Russian, anti-Putin media project based in Latvia. Based on their best available data, the Russian prison population fell by 17,000 – NOT 50,000, as Prigozhin claims – through 2022. Furthermore, the total size of the Wagner organisation was between 50K and 60K by around the beginning of this year, expanding up from around 20K a year before, based on what the Russians themselves have said, including Prigozhin at one point.
Nor has there been any evidence on Russian OR UKRAINIAN Telegram channels of the kinds of hideous losses claimed by Prigozhin. The Russians simply could not hide that scale of losses. There are no laws in Russia against showing graveyards and cemeteries – though there are laws against dishonouring or slandering the Russian military.
Yet, there is no footage circulating anywhere of evidence of Russian losses on that kind of scale. Be under no doubt that, if any such footage existed, the khokhols would circulate it immediately – and would be crowing about how their “great heroes” have “slaughtered the Moskals”, or some such shit.
Contrast that with the evidence we see EVERY SINGLE DAY on Telegram of Ukrainian losses, which are horrific:
Based on the available data, then, it would appear that Prigozhin is quite simply seriously inflating his own losses, to prove a point. My guess is that he wants to score political points against Shoigu and Gerasimov – Defence Minister and Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, respectively.
Prigozhin’s recent blood-soaked rant, in which he stood quite literally in the midst of a field of corpses and screamed into the camera about how the Russian high command had denied his men shells and ammunition, thereby causing 5 times more deaths than were necessary, resulted in quite a stir within Russia, and pissed off more than a few very high-ranking Russian officials. My guess is that Prigozhin’s casualty figures are essentially an attempt to justify his actions and words, because even he knows damned well you do not piss off people as powerful as those two without suffering very dire consequences.
Already, there seem to be attempts underway to “un-person” Prigozhin within the Russian power structure. Putin appears to be protecting Prigozhin, for the moment – and Prigozhin himself goes to great lengths to give the Neo-Tsar credit and thanks in every big speech he makes – but I suspect that will not last long if Prigozhin keeps pissing on those he has to work with.
If we therefore discount Prigozhin’s estimates, and go with the much more likely and conservative losses of around 10K dead on the Wagner side, across all parts of that organisation, and if we assume the Mediazona-BBC numbers are about accurate, we are looking at about 35K Russian dead by this point.
That roughly makes sense, given the well-documented kill ratio on the front lines of 8:1 to 12:1, and the even more well-documented Russian artillery superiority of 10:1.
Keep in mind – the Russians have suffered, IN ONE YEAR, roughly half the number of dead that the US suffered during the ENTIRE Vietnam War. The US suffered 200-300 dead a week during the worst periods of that war – and that proved sufficient to break the American will to fight.
The Russians, by contrast, show no loss of stomach whatsoever for the war. Their losses are painful, to be sure – but they are NOT catastrophic.
For all of that, though… I think Prigozhin’s estimates of Ukrainian losses are, if anything, an underestimate.
The Wagner boys have bagged and tagged thousands, and tens of thousands, of Ukrainian corpses. They know the score. They can see just how many dead there really are on the ground. That is not the entire story, though – there are those who died after being evacuated with horrendous wounds from artillery and shrapnel, and those have yet to be counted.
On balance, it is very clear the Wagner boys were able to achieve something very unusual and rare in the history of war. They attacked a force two to four times larger than their own, depending on when you look at the battle, and which was extremely well-fortified, entrenched, supported, and supplied. And they DESTROYED it, comprehensively.
They essentially turned the classic rules of siege warfare completely on their head. The rule that all the military analysts keep chucking about is that the attacker needs a 3:1 manpower advantage, when attacking a fortified enemy, to win. And that attacker can expect to lose most of its force in doing so.
The Russians made up for this discrepancy in manpower using their COLOSSAL advantages in artillery, air power, tanks, and missiles. They fought at the strategic and operational levels, while Ukraine fought only on the tactical one. It is not surprising the khokhols lost – what IS surprising, is their intransigence and stupidity in holding on to Bakhmut/Artyomovsk for so long, with so little to gain.
Western military ANALysts are finally beginning to take notice about Russian tactics and operational tempo. The Royal United Services Institute – the world’s oldest military think tank – recently published an analysis of Russian tactics in the war, and although it is full of the usual nonsense about supposed Russian “tactical rigidity” and “reactive thinking” and so on, there is at least a dawning awareness that Russia is not some second- or third-rate military power (like, say, the UK, or France)
In the final analysis, it is clear the AFU suffered catastrophic losses in Bakhmut. It is probably not an exaggeration to say they lost at least 50-60K dead over 10 months – and another 60-70K wounded – out of a total force strength of somewhere around 130-150K.
Ukraine does not have infinite manpower remaining. They have lost at least 300K dead by this point – even their own sources internally are beginning to admit this – and of those, they lost 50-60K in the Khreat Khokholite Khounteroffensives last year, plus another 50-60K in this battle. They are now planning to launch another Khreat Khokholite Khumvee Khounteroffensive sometime this year – no one is quite sure when, or why, including the Ukies themselves – but they will lose another 50-60K in that offensive too.
This is the utter wastage of human life, for no good end.
The Russians, by contrast, looked at Bakhmut as essentially an attrition operation. The Russians are not celebrating the fall of Bakhmut and its renaming to Artyomovsk unduly. They understand full well that this is not a war for territory – it is for the destruction of Ukraine’s ability to fight. And they are accomplishing precisely that.
Ukraine’s best course of action right now is unconditional surrender, before tens of thousands more of their men die. Otherwise, if they continue to fight and resist, thousands more Russians will die, and that will simply make the final settlement all the worse for the Ukrainians.
EDIT: Our Beloved and Dreaded Supreme Dark Lord (PBUH) Voxemort the Most Malevolent and Terrible, has weighed in on the subject of the battle as well:
First, the Russians aren’t even using their military to accomplish their goals. Except for the initial attempt on Kiev, it appears their regular Army hasn’t suffered any significant losses at all. To date, they’ve primarily utilized convicts, Chechens, and ex-Ukrainian militia, and that has sufficed to devastate the Ukro-NATO forces.
Second, the Ukro-NATO military has been severely degraded. There is no way an outnumbered attacker should be able to drive a first-class military from prepared defenses, let alone in an urban environment. Wagner had one-fifth the number of troops the military textbooks say it required to take the city. Since it is not credible to suggest that a mercenary company consisting of convicts is a first-class organization, this suggests that the UFA forces are operating at a level more or less comparable to the Arab armies of the 1960s. This is not surprising, as conscript armies tend to be low-performance and low-morale.
Third, the Russian focus is on the enemy forces, not on the terrain. This is consistent with what Marshal Zhukov records in his memoirs of the Russian civil war and World War II. Consider the way in which Zhukov didn’t hesitate to advocate the early abandonment of Kiev in order to preserve its defenders, whereas Zaluzhnyi, like Hitler, refused to countenance the retreat from even a small, strategically meaningless city in order to conserve tens of thousands of soldiers.
Fourth, the real war hasn’t even started yet. The battle for the Donbass is little more than the opening skirmish in a much larger war between Clown World and the sovereign nations.
With the greatest respect to OBADSDL(PBUH), I must strongly disagree with his first two points. They are quite simply wrong.
The Wagner Stormboyz did not achieve the liberation of Artyomovsk on their own. The Russian regular army, paratroopers, tank units, and especially artillery regiments, provided huge amounts of support by holding the flanks and bombarding the khokhols. They left the Wagner Stormboyz to do what they do best – KRUMPIN’ DA HUMIES WIF DA SHOOTAS!!!!
Nor is it at all true that Wagner is a mercenary company consisting of ex-cons. It is in fact a professional extension of the Russian military, specialising in light-infantry urban warfare. There is simply no credible evidence that the Wagner PMC used convicts as cannon-fodder or primary forces, beyond isolated shots of a few dozen corpses purportedly belonging to Wagner fighters at various points in the battle. The Wagner PMC is, as I said, a professional military organisation that serves as a kind of “Russian Foreign Legion”, and they do not simply waste the lives of their men. Russians never have – absurd claims about WWII-style “human-wave tactics” to the contrary.
And finally, contra the SDL’s rather dim view of khokhol fighting capabilities, the Wagner Stormboyz themselves have stated repeatedly that the Ukies are tough, brave, capable fighters. My intense personal dislike of Ukrainians and their neo-Nazi-infested shithole of a country does not stop me from recognising and respecting the basic truth of this fact. The Ukrainians are Slavs, whether they admit it or not, and they come from warrior stock. While their conscripts are little better than cannon-fodder, and die in droves, their experienced combat troops are capable, disciplined, and skilled. Fighting khokhols is NOTHING like fighting Arabs – the Wagner boys would know, because many of them fought in Syria against ISIS ragheads.
However, OBADSDL(PBUH)‘s third and fourth points are absolutely CORRECT. He is entirely right – General Surovikin has always made clear, since October, that his goal is to grind down the Ukrainian forces through severe attrition. That is precisely what is happening. And it is also absolutely true that Russia has not even used 20% of its true military power in the conflict yet.
Putin very ominously said last year that “we have not really started anything yet”. He spoke the truth – he never bluffs. When, not if, the Russians actually start – the West had better sit up and pay attention, because NATO is in no shape whatsoever to fight back.