Once a secretive mercenary leader, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin now operates openly, posting messages from inside Ukraine as part of Russia's invasion force


  • Prigozhin said Ukraine is 'one of the strongest armies today'
  • Prigozhin claimed the Wagner group lost about 20,000 fighters in Bakhmut
  • The Wagner chief said Russia should consider shutting its borders so as not to lose the country

Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Russia's infamous Wagner group and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, this week detailed Moscow's failures in its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in an interview with pro-Russian blogger Konstantin Dolgov, Prigozhin noted that Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, only helped strengthen Kyiv's military.

"If they had a notional 500 tanks at the beginning of a special military operation, or 5,000 tanks now; if they had 20,000 able to fight, they now have 400,000 able to fight," he said, according to translations from a video shared on Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs.

"So how did we demilitarize [Ukraine]? It turns out that, on the contrary, we have militarized Ukraine. I think the Ukrainians are one of the strongest armies today," the Wagner chief continued.

During the interview, Prigozhin also claimed the Wagner group has lost 20% of the 50,000 prisoners he recruited to fight in the war in Ukraine, or about 10,000 prisoners. He also said he lost about the same number of volunteer fighters in the conflict, translations by The Guardian said.

Prigozhin later warned that Ukraine has the capacity to liberate all territories occupied by Russia, including the Crimean Peninsula. He said Russia should consider shutting its borders and living "like in North Korea" for years.

"[Russia] must prepare for a heavy war. What must we do – not to lose Russia? Because today we are in a state when we can lose Russia," he said, as translated by The Daily Mail.

"We must introduce martial law. We must call for new waves of mobilization. We must switch everyone to the production of weapons. Stop building skyscrapers, new roads and new infrastructure – and work only for the war. We must live like in North Korea for several years and shut the borders."

Western intelligence suggested earlier this year that the Wagner group likely had a casualty rate of up to 50%. In March, it was also estimated that the Wagner group has lost up to 30,000 fighters in its fierce battle in the city of Bakhmut.

As of Wednesday, the Russian army is estimated to have lost a total of 204,760 soldiers, including 400 killed over the past day, according to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Russia's Wagner mercenaries claim to have captured Bakhmut after months of intense attacks