Most of Bakhmut's prewar population of some 70,000 has fled the city


  • The Wagner Group lost 200 fighters in the Bakhmut axis between Feb. 20 and 22
  • Their bodies were examined Thursday before being moved to the direction of Russia
  • The Wagner Group has suffered 30,000 casualties in Ukraine since the war began

The Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group continues to suffer "significant losses" as it participates in Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian military.

Around 200 Wagner Group mercenaries were "destroyed" between Feb. 20 and 22 on the front line in the Bakhmut axis in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk province, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a weekend update.

An "on-site examination" of the bodies was conducted Thursday in the Horlivka district of Donetsk without official registration.

The deceased were later taken by trucks to the direction of the eastern Russian border city of Novoshakhtinsk, according to Ukraine's general staff.

The Wagner Group has suffered 30,000 casualties in Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor a year ago, White House National Security Council adviser John Kirby said on Feb. 17.

Among the casualties, 9,000 were killed in action, Kirby told reporters, including Reuters, during a media briefing.

Convicts made up around 90% of the Wagner Group's fatalities, according to the official.

The mercenary company previously recruited inmates from Russian prisons, promising them shorter sentences and cash incentives should they agree to sign a contract and fight in Ukraine.

However, the Wagner Group's founder, Russian billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced earlier this month that his organization has stopped taking in prisoners.

The Wagner Group's recruitment of convicts slowed down in recent months, coinciding with decreases in Russia's prison population that were confirmed by data provided by Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Russia's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has since started to recruit Russian prisoners who they can treat as "cannon fodder" in Ukraine, the U.S.-based think tank claimed.

"The Russian MoD's decision to recruit prisoners is an indicator that the Kremlin seeks to exploit convicts for future human wave attacks in a similar fashion as the Wagner Group despite convicts' limited combat effectiveness," the ISW said in an assessment released on Feb. 14.

Amid reports of its losses, the Wagner Group's fighters have led assaults and gained ground in Ukraine.

The mercenary company has supposedly taken control of the village of Yahidne to Bakhmut's north, but Ukrainian officials have dismissed the claim, German state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

A Ukrainian serviceman waits for an order to fire an anti-tank grenade launcher, near Bakhmut on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion