There are roughly 6,000 Wagner group mercenaries fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told US lawmakers on Wednesday.
“They're conducting combat operations right now in Bakhmut primarily. It's probably about 6,000 or so actual mercenaries and maybe another 20 or 30,000 recruits that they get, many of whom come from prisons,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee alongside US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “And they are suffering an enormous amount of casualties in the Bakhmut area; the Ukrainians are inflicting a lot of death and destruction on these guys.”
The battle over Bakhmut has turned into a “slaughter-fest" for the Russians, Milley said.
“The Ukrainians are doing a very effective area defense that is proven to be very costly to the Russians. For about the last 20, 21 days, the Russians have not made any progress whatsoever in and around Bakhmut,” he said. “So it's a slaughter-fest for the Russians. They're getting hammered in the vicinity of Bakhmut and the Ukrainians have fought very, very well.”
The head of the Russian private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an audio message earlier Wednesday that the battle for the city "has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army," but added that Wagner has "been pretty battered" as well.