Head of Russia’s Wagner private mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said around 10,000 prisoners he recruited to fight in Ukraine have been killed on the battlefield.

Last year, he toured Russian prisons in a bid to convince inmates to fight with Wagner in Ukraine in exchange for a promised amnesty upon their return should they survive.

The convicts are believed to have been used as cannon fodder in Ukraine, accounting for most of Wagner’s losses in the pro-Western country.

Prigozhin has scathingly criticised Russia’s top brass, accusing them of being responsible for huge losses.

He called on Russia’s military elite to send their own children to the front.

Prigozhin, a businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, has slammed the Russian elites, saying their children live comfortably while men from impoverished regions die in Ukraine.

He said his fighters will pull out of the destroyed city by June 1 and transfer control to the Russian army.

In early May, the White House said that more than 20,000 Russian troops have died and another 80,000 were wounded in five months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, particularly in Bakhmut.