The Biden administration estimates that since December Russia has suffered 100,000 casualties, including more than 20,000 killed, White House national security council spokesman John Kirby said Monday.
Among those killed, Kirby estimates that nearly half were soldiers from the private military company Wagner Group, which is heavily involved in the grinding fight for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
“Russia has exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces,” Kirby told reporters. “Just since December, we estimate that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including over 20,000 killed in action. . . . It’s really stunning, these numbers.”
Kirby said the source of the new 100,000 figure is “based on some downgraded intelligence that we’ve been able to collect,” though he did not elaborate.
He would not give the estimated number of casualties for Ukrainians, deferring to Kyiv on the information.
“We’ve never talked about Ukrainian casualties in the war,” Kirby said. “I don’t suspect that we’re going to change that posture.”
The last Russian casualty estimate from the United States was in November, when Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said more than 100,000 Russian were killed or wounded in the war.
Milley added that the number of Ukrainian troop casualties was probably the “same.”
Kirby attributed the high number of deaths among Wagner troops to a lack of “combat training, combat leadership, or any sense of organizational command and control,” noting that many of them were ex-prisoners released in order to fight in the war.
“The majority are ex-convicts, folks [Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin] went knocking around on doors in prison cells throughout Russia to throw human flesh at this fight,” he said.
He also shot down what he called “a ludicrous claim” from Prigozhin, who said Sunday that Wagner had only suffered 94 casualties.
Kirby also gave an update on the battle for Bakhmut, where fighting “continues to be quite intense.”
He said most of Russia’s efforts have “stalled and failed” in trying to take the city, with the Kremlin only making “some incremental gains” that will not alter the course of the war in Moscow’s favor.
“The bottom line is that Russia’s attempted offensive has backfired. After months of fighting and extraordinary losses, Russia continues to be focused on a single Ukrainian city with limited strategic value,” Kirby said.
He deferred to Ukraine when asked when the country is likely to begin an expected spring counteroffensive, noting that the United States is focusing on “making sure that we’re helping them be as ready as they can be for whenever they choose to step off,” including providing them with more weapons.