Putin reeling as Wagner militia suffers ‘significant’ losses

Vladimir Putin says threat of nuclear weapons is 'growing'

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Russia’s Wagner militia has suffered “significant losses” after its Luhansk headquarters was hit during an Ukraine artillery strike. The mercenary group was founded by the businessman and close Putin associate Yevgeny Prigozhin. Mr Prigozhin has been touring Russian prisons in a recruitment drive for his militia.

Wagner units are heavily involved in the current fierce fighting raging around the eastern Donbas city of Bakhmut.

The mercenary group has a headquarters in a hotel based in the city of Kadiivka, that is situated in Luhansk region.

Luhansk forms one part of the Donbas – with Donetsk region making up the other half.

Serhiy Haidai, Luhansk’s Ukrainian governor, said the Wagner HQ was hit in the artillery strike.

He added that the Russians had suffered “significant losses” and he expected “at least 50 percent of the injured to die, due to a lack of adequate medical treatment”.

Mr Haidai wrote on his Telegram channel: “The occupiers continue to smoke where necessary.

“In Kadiivka, there was an explosion at the Zhdanov guest house.

“The headquarters of Wagner was located there.

“Russian losses are very significant.”

Ukraine’s Luhansk governor also claimed that Russian occupying authorities were stepping up their recruitment drives.

He said: “The Russians are gradually mobilising all men from the Luhansk region.

“Now this forced mobilisation has intensified. Military commissars do not pay attention to age or health.

“The Russians send residents of Luhansk region to the front line.”

The Wagner militia has been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.

The militia’s units have previously been deployed in Crimea, Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

It comes as hundreds of Russian soldiers were reported killed after a HIMARS attack wiped out a Russian army barrack in the city of Melitopol.

The city has been occupied by Russian forces since early March and is a major logistics centre for Putin’s army in the south-east.

Melitopol is strategically located between Mariupol to the east, Kherson and the Dnipro River to the west, and Crimea to the south.

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On Saturday night, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, hinted that Melitopol could be a main target of Ukrainian forces.

“If Melitopol falls, the entire defence line all the way to Kherson collapses,” he said in an interview.

He added: “Ukrainian forces would then gain a direct route to Crimea.”

Crimea was illegally annexed by Putin in 2014. Kyiv has vowed to retake the peninsula.

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