Ukrainian troops say Russia's Wagner fighters would rather die in Bakhmut than retreat and face punishment
Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Bakhmut say Wagner troops are the toughest opponents, NYT reported.
One soldier said Wagner units face punishment if they retreat, so they "prefer to die" in battle.
Wagner units have played a major role in Bakhmut battles.
Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Bakhmut say that troops from the mercenary Wagner Group are their toughest enemies on the battlefield.
But that assessment isn't necessarily due to Wagner's training — Ukrainian troops told The New York Times that Wagner troops fight harder because they face physical punishments if they retreat or lose.
"They are scared to give up and to leave positions. They prefer to die here," Ukrainian colonel Yevhen Mezhevikin told The Times.
It's a stark difference from other Russian units, the colonel added. Some divisions holding defense points in the city often lack the morale to keep fighting, he said.
"It's easier to fight them. They are running away," Mezhevikin told The Times.
Wagner units have played a major role in Bakhmut, pushing the offensive in recent months. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told US lawmakers on Wednesday that despite vicious fighting, there are still around 6,000 Wagner troops in Bakhmut, CNN reported.
The amount of Wagner mercenaries fighting in the city could be an effort by Russian military leaders to "expend" the group. Earlier this month, experts assessed that the ongoing feud between Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian leadership could have led to Russia wasting Prigozhin's soldiers and weakening his power and influence.
And the tactic appears to be working.
Milley said that Wagner units have taken heavy losses in Bakhmut over the past month, CNN reported.
"They are suffering an enormous amount of casualties in the Bakhmut area," Milley said. "The Ukrainians are inflicting a lot of death and destruction on these guys."
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